… as wardens ponder how to deal with LGBTQ inmates
By Megameno Shikwambi
Several regional prison institutions that convened this week at a United Nations conference have revealed that prisons were reeling with Gender Based Violence.
Speaking at the event, Germany based Professor Heinno Stover, in further affirmation of the revelations, said that the prison insides were a reflection of the generality of society.
He also said women inmates were subject to sexual harassment.
In Germany, Professor Stover said he has observed that female officers go as far as getting married to prisoners.
“Very few women would like and very few men, to leave for a many years only in a specific gender isolated institution. We do have different sexes and genders so it is something to be learnt but at the same time we have to be careful and educated about any harassments and assaults, anything that we can think of where men but women mostly are subject to these harassments,” he said.
Journalist Moses Magadza highlighted that there was a thin line between GBV and sexual harassment.
“I know that in some instances female officers are subjected to lewd remarks about their body structure from male inmates, as they walk past and the inmates sometimes comment, they make those cat-calls.
I don’t know whether that is something we need to worry about. I was wondering whether we should aspire to gender equality as an ideal or whether we should aim for gender equity in our correctional services,” he said.
He added, “The last thing is, I have gone to some correctional facilities where concerns have been raised about some of the type of body searches that are conducted.
In some countries male inmates are asked to strip down and they bend over because it is suspected some of them smuggle weapons and drugs in unmentionable parts of their anatomy. I wanted to find out whether this is a big issue”.
A Kenyan prison official at the conference also said women from outside prison walls were being lured inside to strip-tease for money.
“What we established was that our prisoners in the maximum prison would actually of course use their illegally (smuggled) telephones and lure women inside and come with them and in the visitors area they collude with staff to switch off the CCTV and carry on what we call the strip search or the strip-tease.
So the women from inside would remove (their clothes) gradually and the more they bring it down, the more money they are getting. So it went on until it was established that one of the female officers also got into it because the money was so much from the prisoners. What I want to understand is, is this also gender based violence? ,” she said.
Another major highlight was that some prison officials in Namibia were at a loss on how to handle inmates from the LGBTQI community.
A local prison officials said, “I am looking at this transgender practice.
In Africa it’s almost new and most of our constitutions do not allow it officially and when our prisons were built there were really no provisions for such a people and when we get them there we really do not know what to do with them.
How should we prevent the consequences or the violence that can come to them.
I am covering some few correctional facilities and we have one just 200Km from here (Windhoek).
That’s where we have more of transgender people. I found out that they were kept in big numbers at the clinic and they were not sick but they were admitted and put in a corner.
We had a discussion with our officer in charge because we needed also to admit our patients.Now we have to keep the transgender people there. It became a bit difficult to accommodate them because the fear is that when they are in with other inmates, things will happen,” he said.
Professor Stover also said that female inmates were having to deal with male gynecologists while in certain instances they have to sell their bodies for favors.
“Men are only allowed in escort to female units. However you also mention that the governors are often male, the prison doctors are often male, and so there is a lot of overlap which is posing several problems.
To be honest having a gynecologist as a man in a female institution is not the best solution and is not inspiring women to look into their reproductive health issues once there is a man.
These are the gender sensitive issues.
When we look deeper into the situation of female institutions, we will see that there is also a part from the law and regulations, attempts and practices of men having some relationships with women prisoners.
Everything comes out in the end. I also wonder how stupid some prison officers are. They believe these can be kept secretly. But nothing can be kept secret in prison. I am sure that these relationships exist. Women are paying with sex for certain advantages and drugs or whatever comes in,” he said.
The professor did indicate that some men in prisons were selling their bodies.
“A lot of things I experienced in my studies, in my interviews with prisoners were coming up with even cigarettes at the end of the month. Some prisoners are clever, they are having cigarettes and tobacco until the end of the month before the money comes in.
Even for tobacco, sex is being delivered but the major thing is that sex is being offered for drugs,” he said.
The professor said GBV and sexual harassment was seldomly reported in prisons.