Each year thousands of strip searches are conducted on women in Victoria’s prisons. Strip searches are invasive, humiliating and, in many cases, re-traumatising. They require women to strip naked in front of two prison officers.
Strip searches are conducted on women who have experienced disproportionately high rates of sexual abuse and family violence and who, in the vast majority of cases, are awaiting trial or sentence, or are serving short sentences for non-violent crimes.
The rationale given for the current routine use of strip searches is that they are necessary to maintain safety and security in prisons. However, evidence shows that routine strip searches are not a reasonable nor proportionate response to achieving this aim, particularly in light of the serious harm they cause women. Overseas, courts have said that strip searches will constitute inhuman or degrading treatment and violate the right to bodily integrity unless
they are absolutely necessary and required for good reason, such as a serious suspicion that a person is hiding contraband.
The Human Rights Law Centre reviewed six months of recent Victorian strip search register entries obtained through freedom of information laws from the two women’s prisons in Victoria.