…‘Not all of us have sex in prison’ – Inmates
Several prisoners have opposed plans by the health ministry to start distributing condoms in prison, The Patriot has learnt. Ombudsman John Walters yesterday revealed to this publication that he was recently approached by inmates, who complained over the mooted distribution of condoms in prison, saying he will meet them next year to hear their concerns.
Walters did not say how the prisoners contacted him, however.
The complaints from the inmates come at a time when Minister of Health and Social Services, Bernard Haufiku, is vocal about the decriminalisation of the Sodomy Act in order to allow the distribution of male condoms in correctional facilities.
Haufiku is pushing for the distribution of condoms in jail despite Namibia not recognising same-sex intercourse, meaning the introduction of condoms in jail will be unconstitutional if the law is not amended to cater for it.
In a telephonic interview with The Patriot, Ombudsman John Walters confirmed the complaints.
“Last week I received complaints from a group of prisoners asking me to prevent the legalisation of condom distribution in correctional facilities at any cost,” said Walters.
Additionally, when asked whether he was for or against male condom distribution in correctional facilities, Walters said he is yet to decide on the issue. “At this point, I cannot say whether I am for or against the distribution of condoms, let me first address it with the prisoners and hear what they have to say,” added Walters.
Although the Ombudsman hinted that he will be meeting the said group of prisoners early next year, he could not give this newspaper a specific date. It is alleged that among the reasons why some prisoners are against condom distribution is that not all of them are sexually involved, and as such are concerned and will be embarrassed if condoms were to be distributed as everyone will think they are all intimately involved with other men. Haufiku was adamant that Namibia is in denial over the prevalence of same-sex relationships in Namibian prisons. “Even though people opt not to talk about it, prisons are one of the main breeding areas of HIV, therefore, prisoner and sex workers need to protect themselves from acquiring or transmitting the virus. Therefore, distribute them in all these areas,” Haufiku said recently.
Haufiku believes the distribution of condoms in prisons is one of the many ways to control the HIV/AIDS virus from spreading.
Moreover, the issue of condom distribution in Namibian prisons came to life last week when Haufiku called for the distribution of condoms in prisons. Haufiku was quoted by The Namibian Sun saying it was high time that Namibia changes its laws so that prisoners can get condoms.
The health minister argues that despite official denial that man-to-man sex does not take place in prisons, there is substantial evidence that the practice was taking place and can therefore spread HIV.
According to the health minister, the reason why government prohibits condom distribution in prisons can be directly linked to provisions contained in Section 256 of the Criminal Procedure and the common-law prohibition of sodomy.
Efforts to get hold of Safety and Security Minister Major General (Rtd) Charles Namoloh proved futile as he is out of the country.
“Please ask me those questions once I return to Namibia,” said Namoloh yesterday. Namibian Police Force chief, Inspector General Sebastian Ndeitunga, declined to pronounce his stance on this debate when The Patriot approached him, saying: “I do not have a comment.”
The issue of condom distribution in Namibian prisons is not new, as it dates back to as far as 2004 when then president Sam Nujoma launched the National Strategic Plan on HIV/AIDS, which called for male prisoners to receive condoms.
However, the move was rebuffed by the then Ministry of Prisons and Correctional Services (now Ministry of Safety and Security), as they argued that there was no use in distributing condoms when male and female prisoners were separated. It was also argued at the time that the distribution of condoms in correctional facilities would promote homosexuality.
The distribution of condoms in prisons is popular in countries like Brazil, Australia, Ukraine, the United States of America and Romania. South Africa is the only African country out of 54 states that provides its prisoners with male condoms.