A Zimbabwean gay rights group says the danger of sexual violence is extremely high under conditions of severe overcrowding currently prevailing in Zimbabwe’s correctional system and called on the government to speed up the provision of condoms to inmates.
The Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ) said prison culture “encourages men to have sex with men, if not necessitating it, and you will often find aggressor/victim type relationships”.
“The mere existence of sexual relationships between inmates who do not identify as homosexual or bisexual is powerful testimony to men’s need for and ability to create intimacy when faced with factors such as confinement for longer periods,” the group said in a statement.
It said that due to the fact that men generally have a high sex drive, they are bound to have sex regardless of circumstances.
“By making condoms unavailable and by not acknowledging that men have sex with men in prison, the government and prison authorities are encouraging the spread of sexually transmitted diseases like HIV/AIDS and putting pressure on the national health budget,” said GALZ.
According to the group, gender roles and identities in prison are defined primarily by the ability to exercise power. Those less able to stand up for themselves are often bullied into unwanted homosexual relationships.
“Not providing condoms to prisoners has serious implications. When prisoners are eventually released and come back into society to wives and girlfriends, they may infect healthy partners and thus spread HIV,” it said.
A Ministry of Health official announced this month that inmates in Zimbabwe’s overcrowded prisons could soon be receiving condoms to prevent the spread of HIV and AIDS.
The official said his ministry was working with the justice ministry to address health challenges in the country’s prisons.
President Robert Mugabe, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, some church leaders and traditionalists have condemned homosexuality while some civic society organisations see nothing wrong in being gay.