South Africa Moots Jail Sex Reforms
News, March 24,2005
Inmates of South African jails should be allowed to have
consensual sex, the country’s prisons watchdog has argued. The Judicial
Inspectorate of Prisons (JIP) said permitting intercourse could reduce rape
and encourage safer sex practices among prisoners.
The recommendation followed a complaint from two male
prisoners who were punished for having consensual gay sex.
Prison officials oppose the plan. South Africa has the
second-highest rate of HIV infection in the world.
A spokesman from the Department of Correctional Services,
Manelisi Wolela, told the Reuters news agency people forfeit the right to
sexual intercourse when they enter prison.
‘Breaking down stigma’
However, Aids lobby groups and human rights groups
welcomed the JIP’s proposals.
The president of the South African Prisoners Organisation
for Human Rights, Golden Miles Bhudu, told the Pretoria News daily that
granting prisoners conjugal rights “will mean less prison rapes, less
unnatural sexual activity”.
Rukia Cornelius, a spokesman for the Aids lobby group
Treatment Action Campaign, told Reuters the move will lead to more open-ness
and safer sex.
The JIP, which has authority over South Africa’s prison
service, the Department of Correctional Services, made its recommendation
after considering an appeal from two male inmates who were charged with
misconduct for having sex.
According to a JIP lawyer, Umesh Raga, permitting sex
between prisoners will make it easier to differentiate between “cases where
there is consensual and coercive sex”.
He said he hoped the measures would break down
“stigmatisation” and allow a proper debate to be held.
South Africa’s constitution guarantees gays and
lesbians protection against prejudice—but homophobia remains commonplace.
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