Beijing women's prison to allow conjugal visits during New Year

Twelve inmates at Beijing's only prison for women will be allowed to spend the night with their husbands during the upcoming Chinese New Year holiday, state media reported Tuesday. It is the first time that any of the women incarcerated at the prison have been allowed to spend more than a few hours with family members, the official Xinhua News agency reported.

The prison has built a special guesthouse where couples can stay in their own private rooms for 24 hours on either the first or second night of the upcoming weeklong New Year holiday, Xinhua said. Each room has a double bed and bathroom, according to the news agency. The news made headlines in China, with the English-language China Daily saying it was going to be a "steamy" New Year for women at the Daxing county prison.

But the Beijing News questioned the legality of only allowing conjugal visits for 12 of the prison's 900-plus female inmates. "If the 24-hour visit is recognized as extending care to female prisoners, then the prison authorities should offer the same treatment to all inmates, not just 12 of them," it said in a commentary on Monday.

The paper also raised the issue of unplanned pregnancies during the visits, and urged prison authorities to advise and provide women with contraceptives.

One woman will be chosen from each of the prison's 12 units based on "exemplary" behavior, Xinhua said, without elaborating. China's Spring Festival holiday runs from Jan. 29 to Feb. 2 this year.

Beijing Women's Prison is located in Daxing county on the city's outskirts. Among the 900-plus prisoners, 41 percent were convicted of economic crimes, 25 percent of violent crimes including murder and theft and 7.9 percent drug trafficking crimes, Xinhua said. Calls to the prison were referred back to China's Foreign Ministry, reports the AP. I.L.

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