Zimbabwe plans to give condoms to prisoners

Zimbabwe has rejected a proposal to distribute condoms to prisoners. FILE | AFRICA REVIEW 

A Zimbabwean health official has said his country plans to give condoms to prisoners as a way of curbing the spread of HIV/Aids.

The director of Aids and Tuberculosis programme in the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare Owen Mugurungi was recently quoted in the media saying there was a realisation that homosexuality was rampant in prisons.

He said this resulted in inmates infecting one another and in turn, their spouses when they are released from prison.

Dr Mugurungi said his ministry was working with that of Justice to find the best way of introducing condoms to the prison system.

“We will do whatever it takes, even if it means giving prisoners condoms,” he told the privately owned NewsDay.

On Tuesday, the Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ) an association that represents homosexuals welcomed the move describing it as long overdue.

“The danger of sexual violence in prisons is extremely increased under conditions of severe overcrowding and malnutrition,” GALZ said in a statement.

“Prison culture encourages men to have sex with men and you will often find aggressor/victim type of relationships.

“The mere existence of sexual relationships between inmates who do not identify as homosexual or bi-sexual is powerful testimony to men’s need for and ability to create intimacy when faced with factors such as confinement of longer periods.”

Dogs and pigs

However, the proposal is still a subject of controversy and divided opinion in a country where homosexuality is frowned upon.

President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai have in the past spoken strongly against the inclusion of gay rights in the country’s Constitution which is under review.

Prior to the formation of a unity government between President Mugabe and Mr Tsvangirai in February last year, prisoners in Zimbabwe died in large numbers due to starvation and disease.
Aids and malnutrition were identified as the biggest killers.

At that time Zimbabwe’s prison population stood at 17,000 but it has since gone down to 13,361 after President Mugabe pardoned thousands early this year.

Zimbabwe’s long time ruler is known for his strident opposition to gay rights.

At one time President Mugabe described homosexuals as worse than dogs and pigs.

Deputy Justice minister Obert Gutu said the Ministry of Health was yet to table the proposals but admitted that implementing them maybe difficult given Zimbabwe’s opposition to homosexuality.

Zimbabwe has one of the highest HIV prevalence rates in the world but it is also one of the few countries that are recording huge decline in new infections.

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