A LEGISLATOR has reiterated calls to provide prisoners with condoms to reduce the spread of sexually-transmitted infections and HIV among male inmates.
by VENERANDA LANGA
Matabeleland North MP Ruth Labode (MDC-T), who is also a medical doctor, said this in the National Assembly on Thursday while contributing to debate on a motion on the second report of the Portfolio Committee on Defence on the attempted jailbreak at Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison last March.
“There is ample evidence that shows that the HIV rate among men in prison is higher than the national population outside, while female prisoners have the same incidence as the women outside prison,” Labode said.
“The numbers of men who are taken to hospitals like Mpilo Central Hospital and Harare Central Hospital who have sores or chancroid, which is a sexually-transmitted disease of the anus, has increased, and this is evidence that men in prisons are having sex with each other yet as people, we have decided to close our eyes and pretend that this thing is not happening.”
She added: “We are forgetting that those men come out and meet the innocent wife who is at home and infect that woman. We need to seriously, as a government, say we do not agree with this thing, but we have evidence that it is happening. Here are condoms and ARVs, so that if those men are using condoms, they will come out clean.”
Shamva South MP Joseph Mapiki (Zanu PF) said women in jails should be availed with sanitary pads as they ended up using tissue paper and torn and unwashed blankets as substitutes.
“Those tissues have chemicals that cause infections and the blankets that they use as sanitary wear are rarely washed and female prisoners end up being prone to diseases that develop into cancer,” he said.
Mapiki said machinery to produce sanitary pads was cheap and government should procure them for female inmates so that they produce sanitary pads for themselves.
Proportional Representation legislator Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga (MDC) said there was also shortage of underwear at prisons.
“Male prisoners do not necessarily have to wear underwear because organically, a man can walk around without underwear, but you cannot ask the same for a woman because at the end of the day, it is problematic for a woman to move around without panties. Otherwise we would be coming here in Parliament without panties,” she said. “People are talking of shortage of shorts and shirts, but with female prisoners, it is shortage of underwear.”
Misihairabwi-Mushonga said the situation was dehumanising, adding the Defence committee should revisit Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison to look at the gender aspect of prisons.
She said menstrual cycles were painful and unbearable for females, adding it was probably worse for female prisoners with no painkillers to soothe the pain.