The Ministry of Prisons and Correctional Services in Namibia have said that they are opposed to the nation’s proposed initiative that will see condoms distributed in jail cells across the southern African country, saying doing so will encourage homosexuality in prisons.
According to the African Review, the Namibian government, which has already taken great strides to promote safe sex education and implement comprehensive HIV testing, counseling, prevention and treatment programmes for the benefit of the masses, is considering doing the same in its jail cells where none of those services are present.
The National Strategic Plan on HIV/AIDs, initiated over a decade ago, includes an initiative to distribute condoms to Namibian male prison inmates, a move meant to curb the increasing rate of HIV/AIDs infections in the nation.
With 267 in every 100,000 people in jail in Namibia, the nation ranks among the top five African nations with the highest per capita rates of imprisonment and interviews, Africa Review reports, have shed light on a pattern of compromised health, safety and security of inmates and detainees.
When first discussed in the Namibian government in 2000, the plan angered lawmakers in the largely homophobic country and there indications that the initiative would not see the light of day, when then President Sam Nujoma failed to launch it as per its time line the same year.
The Ministry of Prisons and Correctional Services, on its part, demanded to know why the Ministry of Health wanted condoms distributed among inmates as men and women were separated.
However, the Health Ministry countered that the proposal to provide condoms did not hinge on sexual lust, but was aimed at preventing the spread of HIV/Aids as gang rapes and sodomy are rife in prisons, Africa Review reports.
The initiative was once again reviewed a few weeks ago in Namibian parliament and sparked a furor within members of the ruling Swapo party who opposed the motion.
On the other hand, the opposition CoD party called on government to be realistic of the situation in prison and argued the merits of distributing condoms amongst male inmates.
“Those in the cells have (sexual) needs they want satisfied and men help men and women help women to satisfy these needs,” Elma Dienda of the opposition party CoD argued.
“This (non-distribution) would spread HIV/Aids and MPs should not deny such acts take place in prisons.”
A visibly angry Petrus Ilonga, deputy Labour minister, moved against the motion, adding that he and other Namibians who were jailed during the apartheid did not practice sodomy.