Homosexuality is rampant in Zimbabwean prisons, leading to high rates of AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections among inmates, chairperson of parliament’s health committee, Dr Ruth Labode has said.
Labode said there was “ample evidence” that the HIV rate among prison men was higher than the population outside.
“The numbers of men who are taken to hospitals like Mpilo and Harare who have sores or what we call chancroid, which is an STD of the anus, has increased. This is evidence that men are having sex with each other,” Labode said Thursday while contributing to debate on prison conditions in the country.
She said the government chose to pretend it was not happening.
“We are forgetting that those men come out and meet the innocent wife who is at home and infect that woman,” she said.
Labode said the National AIDS Council was aware of the situation but could not push for interventions as their “hands are tied”. She suggested that condoms and antiretroviral drugs be availed to the inmates.
The suggestion to give condoms to prisoners was first made by former health minister Timothy Stamps but was shot down on the basis that it could fuel the illegal acts. Instead, other MPs called for tight monitoring of the prison population and changing the law to allow conjugal visits by spouses of long-serving criminals.
“In other countries – other jurisdictions – they are even allowing prisoners to have their wives in the prison,” said Gabbuza Joel Gabbuza, MP for Binga South. “You are given some time off and you go home. Once in a given duration you are allowed to go home for a few days. They know your addresses and they know there is no way you can run away. In some instances, once in a while you are allowed to have your wife to come into the prison. Maybe you are given a special room to stay with her for one or two days. That is a progressive way of looking at correctional services.”
Gabbuza said Zimbabwe’s ‘harsh’ prison system was hardening criminals instead of helping them to reform.
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