Prisoners denied condoms because sodomy a crime

The Zimbabwe Prison Service has turned down calls for the supply of condoms to prisoners because homosexuality is illegal in Zimbabwe.

Prisoners in Zim jails
Prisoners in Zim jails

There are currently 16 000 inmates in 55 jails across the country.

HIV/Aids awareness campaigners have described the decision as “tragic”.

ZPS Deputy Commissioner, Agrey Huggins Machingauta, told the Parliamentary Thematic Committee on Human Rights on Thursday that calls for the distribution of condoms to prison inmates would not be heeded as sodomy was a crime.

Giving condoms to prisoners would be tantamount to condoning, or even encouraging, homosexual behaviour, he said. But AIDS activists said ZPS officials should stop burying their heads in the sand.

"The government gives the impression that there is no sex going on in prisons, but it is happening and no protection is used, leading to the spread of the virus,” said Mgcini Sibanda of the Zimbabwe National Network for People Living with HIV.

Machingauta admitted to the legislative committee that sodomy was a serious problem in prisons "We know that this activity takes place in our prisons because we receive reports," Machingauta told the Thematic Committee.

"I have been an officer-in charge in a number of prisons and we used to receive reports whenever the parties are not in agreement and even when they are in agreement, but there is a witness to the act that these two were committing sodomy. If they are in agreement they might try to deny it but as long there is a witness we take corrective measures.

"In terms of the Prisons Act, it is an offence and we actually have legal powers to try and punish. There are hardcore criminals who would indulge in anything but once a report is made, we take corrective action.

"On the issue of condoms, we cannot issue them out to inmates until this House passes legislation to legalise homosexuality in Zimbabwe," he said.

The "alarming" public HIV/Aids rate of 13 percent is matched in the prisons. Machingauta also said the problems of underfunding should be addressed.

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