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Female Prison - Mothers in Despair

Luiz Santos | Brazil

MOTHERS BEHIND BARS

A mother waits to meet her son at a prison gate. Black poor children born in prison (or who have mothers in prison) are more likely to get involved in crime than those white, free and better off counterparts. The State in Brazil has the obligation to protect vulnerable children but rarely do so. At the end, grandmothers outside the prisons are, in fact, responsible for those left without assistance.

Lei do Ventre Livre - The Free Womb Bill - was the first bill voted in Brazil linked with the elimination of slavery in the Country. Children born after 28/09/1871 would be free.

Many decades passed and children face living in prison with their convicted mothers, most of them black. These children, who did not commit any crime, are exposed to violence, drug use and poor hygiene. In the State of Bahia a crèche, administered by a Catholic nun, near the Complexo Penitenciário Feminino, gives support to the families and houses a number of children and teenagers - where they are fed and educated. But some prisoners raise accusations of official kidnapping as the children can be prevented from seeing their real relatives or risk being given to other families for adoption. The children are also converted to Catholicism.

This project is about women and aims to be an insight in the lives of mothers, children and grandmothers inside and outside prison walls.

There is a terrible impact on the absence of responsible fathers in the household. Macho cultures praises men who have children with different women without committing themselves. As consequence, in many cases, mothers end up seduced by crime and many end up in prison. 

 This project is not only about the incompetence of the State in care for its citizens. It's also about the responsibilities men should take toward their families and, consequently, communities. Sharing tasks in the household prevents children and women being target for criminals. It keeps our future more humane.

 My father was an alcoholic who could not look after himself or his family. My mother, who could not keep up with the pressure, abandoned me. I witnessed violence at early age and was seen as a burden rather than a joy. When I moved to live with an aunt – who late adopted me – I experienced love and care. I was surrounded by women, and women made the man I am today. I am very grateful.  

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