Lessons
1 Definitions
2 Perspectives
3 Guidelines
4 Hunger Strikes

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Hunger strike - Definitions and terms of reference

Introduction and terms of reference

The colloquial term hunger strike involves several different situations, which must be clarified. Of equal importance is a clear statement on what form of fasting does in no way qualify as protest fasting, as is the case when fasting is a symptom or manifestation of a psychiatric condition.

People in situations of coercion or custody, as has been stated, are the ones who most usually undertake hunger strikes. For the purposes of this module, only prisoners shall be referred to here. Clearly, the ethical guidelines and clinical references will also apply to, for example, asylum seekers or immigrants in custody or any other hunger strikers.

Hunger strikes in prisons are always tricky situations, whether they involve common-law prisoners or political prisoners. In order to define ethical principles and guidelines for management, we must first understand the basic clinical frameworks that relate to the many different forms of fasting.

After setting down definitions, we must consider the different forms of fasting from the prisoners' perspective . The motivations behind, and the perseverance in, a hunger strike can differ greatly according to the situations of the fasting prisoners.

Pressures can be exerted on hunger striking prisoners - not only by the prison authorities, but also by the internal prisoner hierarchy. Family members and peer groups also have their influence, one way or the other.


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