Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ): Statement on the Provision of Condoms to Prisoners

IGLHRC believes that a vital part of our mission is supporting the work of activist organizations and allies by disseminating important information on human rights issues affecting LGBT communities worldwide. To this end we are posting this article from Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ).

GALZ supports calls by the Ministry of Health and Child welfare to provide condoms to prisoners as a noble move in fighting HIV/AIDS in Zimbabwe's prisons.

The danger of sexual violence in prisons is extremely increased under conditions of severe overcrowding and malnutrition such as currently prevails in Zimbabwe.

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.

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.

Gender roles and identities in prison are defined primarily by the ability to exercise power. It is important that those less able to stand up for themselves and not be bullied into unwanted sex, protect themselves. 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.

This isn't about condoning homosexuality. It is a practical health based human rights issue that seeks to protect the health of both those who are incarcerated as well as people on the other side of the prison walls.

Government, in it's bid to stem the HIV/AIDS infection rates should ensure that inmates are provided with condoms. We also call upon the Justice Ministry to improve the conditions of the country's prison system and address overcrowding in these facilities to ensure that prisoners are not exposed to diseases such as Tuberculosis.

Making condoms available to prisoners does not encourage homosexuality; it protects the health of prisoners and their partners outside of prison.