Nii Obodai Writes: Are our prisoners using condoms to engage in ‘Kpee’ as revealed by DSP Machator?

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I took time to read DSP Daniel Machator’s article with the title: ‘Sex And Sexuality In Our Jails: A Tale Of Predator And Prey’ (https://www.rainbowradioonline.com/sex-and-sexuality-in-our-jails-a-tale-of-predator-and-prey/) and I was glad he touched a sensitize issue ignored for many years in our prisons.

The Central Regional PRO for the Ghana Prisons Service, DSP. Daniel Machator managed to highlight the challenge of same-sex relationships in Ghana’s Prisons, but failed to tell us whether these prisoners were using protection.

My focus is not to debate the morality, religious or societal arguments about same sex relationships.

The focus of my piece is to touch on the health related matters associated with the inmates who partake in the act.

The major concern is whether they have protected sex. One could argue that I am engaging in an immoral debate but would it not be proper for us to look at how these inmates access sexual reproductive health information.

DSP Machator’s article sought to highlight how prison inmates satisfy their sexual desires despite the risks involved.

To quote a apportion of his article, he wrote: ‘’The issue of same-sex relationships in our prisons is gradually becoming topical as prisons mirror the wider society. There have even been claims by some ex-convicts to the effect that same-sex relationships and rape exist in our facilities. Though most of these claims are blown out of proportion, there are certain levels of truth in them. An incident at the Ankaful Maximum Security Prison in June 2016 where a male prisoner slashed the penis of another prisoner who attempted to rape him paints a picture of how the act is viewed by a majority of prisoners. The practice, nicknamed ‘Kpee’, is treated as a taboo throughout Ghana’s prisons. That notwithstanding, there are few instances where prisoners report attempted rape by fellow prisoners to prison staff. These reports are swiftly investigated and appropriate sanctions handed to sex predators.’’

The concerns he raised gives one the opportunity to question whether these inmates have an opportunity to regularly access information to know their status, and whether they are at risk considering the fact that they may not be engaging in safer sex.

What are the mechanisms in place to manage such situations with the number of prisoners in question?

Men sleeping with men no matter where it is done come with a number of risks and such persons are exposed to negative health care climates.

There are facilities that are unsupportive of MSM’s, a situation that undermines the prevention measures such as condoms, HIV testing and reliable and accurate sexual information.

It would be proper for the Prisons Service to roll a policy that could help address the health needs of inmates

The Prisons Service does not have to organize any wild chase in determining who is gay or not. But it would be proper for the service to identify stakeholders that could help provide services and information for inmates so they get informed.

The prevalence of HIV in Ghana is 1.3%, compared to 17% among men who have sex with men (MSM).

Despite efforts to manage the spread of HIV infections and other sexually transmitted infections, there is no proper data on the services for HIV in the MSM community.

I would like to stress on the need for the Prisons Service to put in place measures to address the issues I have raised in my piece to help inmates get accurate information on their sexual health.

In 2014, it was estimated that MSM in Ghana were over 30,000 and they were said to be living in all the then 10 regions of the country.

The figure is contained in a report titled integrated Biological and Behavioural Surveillance (IBBS) survey, which was commissioned by the Ghana AIDS Commission in 2011.

According to the report, 17% of men who sleep with men (MSM) are living with HIV.

Section 104 (1) (b) of the Criminal Code makes the act of unnatural carnal knowledge a criminal offence.

Section 104 (1) (b) of the Criminal code state, “Whoever has an unnatural carnal knowledge of any person of 16 years or over with his consent is guilty of a misdemeanor,” while (1) (a) of the same code, which makes reference to sodomy, states, “whoever has unnatural carnal knowledge of any person of the age 16 or over without his consent shall be liable on conviction to imprisonment for a term of not less than five years and not more than 25 years.”

The law is, however, silent on any form of punishment for lesbianism that is, sexual relationship between two females.

In 2003, an Accra Circuit Court jailed four gay men for engaging in homosexual activities.

Kenya’s high court in May this year upheld a law banning gay sex, keeping same sex relations punishable by 14 years in jail in the East African nation.

Same-sex relationships are a crime in more than 70 countries around the world, almost half of them in Africa. Neighbouring Uganda once enacted a law imposing a life sentence for certain acts of gay sex although it was later nullified by court.

South Africa is the only African nation to have legalised gay marriage.

Of the 193 countries recognized by the United Nations, 68 still criminalize same-sex conduct. 

With gay men accounting for 18 per cent of all new HIV infections worldwide. UNAIDS has consistently called  on countries to ensure the human rights of all people are respected, regardless of their sexual orientation. 

The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) leads and inspires the world to achieve its shared vision of zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths.

UNAIDS unites the efforts of 11 UN organizations—UNHCR, UNICEF, WFP, UNDP, UNFPA, UNODC, UN Women, ILO, UNESCO, WHO and the World Bank—and works closely with global and national partners towards ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030 as part of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Probably, the Prisons Service could collaborate with the UNAIDS to provide a holistic sexual reproductive health support for our prisoners.

Source: Nii Obodai (The writer is a Sexual and Reproductive Health Advocate)

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