Prisons chief against scrapping of sodomy law

The commissioner general of prisons cited morals, religion and social stigma against inmates if sex between men is to become legal.

02 June 2021 | Local News

KENYA KAMBOWE







RUNDU

Namibian Correctional Service (NCS) commissioner-general Raphael Hamunyela says legalising sex between men will tarnish the reputation of the country’s correctional services. This is why he is opposed to the distribution of condoms in prisons, he said.

The chief this week said sodomy is an “un-Christian and morally wrong act”.

Hamunyela’s remarks come at a time when justice minister Yvonne Dausab is preparing to submit two pivotal reports compiled by the Law Reform and Development Committee (LRDC) to Cabinet, proposing the abolishment of 34 obsolete laws - including the law criminalising sex between consenting adult men.

One of the obstacles caused by the sodomy law is the prohibition of distributing condoms within prisons.

Some high-profile public officials, such as former health minister Dr Bernhard Haufiku, have criticised the law and blamed it for hampering the fight against HIV among men in prisons.

Asked on Monday what his take on this debate is and what any changes would have on correctional services, Hamunyela said repealing the sodomy law would automatically mean legalising sex among male inmates, something he said he stands opposed to.

“I do not support the scrapping of the sodomy law,” Hamunyela said.

“The correctional facility is not a haven for sodomy. Namibia is a secular state but most people in our country are Christians. In terms of Christianity, we also abide and we don’t allow condoms in prisons because it is also against Christianity. We don’t want to create a situation that is not allowed,” he said.

“It will give the correctional facility a bad connotation because when people are released from custody, society will assume they were either sodomised or they sodomised others because they were given condoms.”

Scrap it already

In 2017, Haufiku was quoted in the media stating his support for distributing condoms in prisons.

He maintained his position this week, saying the sodomy law should have been scrapped years ago to help the fight against HIV.

“It should have been scrapped a long time ago. In our response to HIV nationally, we came across obstacles for incarcerated people in accessing healthcare services to HIV prevention and treatment and mostly prevention, blockage of distributing condoms in prison, and there are many reasons why it should be scrapped,” Haufiku argued.

“It is very unfortunate people equating the scrapping of old apartheid laws including the sodomy law with the legalisation of homosexuality. Those two things are different; it’s just a pity that the public see it the other way around.

“I think everybody knows since time immemorial that people do sleep with each other in prison - whether men to women or men to men or whatever the case may be. Even some staff who are working there sleep with inmates. That is a well-known phenomenon, not only in Namibia but all over the world,” Haufiku said.

“It’s just a matter of us not seeing far or burying our heads in the sand, but the truth is that those things are happening in prisons everywhere; that’s why it is important that preventative measures are accessed by inmates or otherwise we try to attend to one problem of crime and create the other one of health,” he further argued.

Shangula not aware

When contacted for comment, health minister Dr Kalumbi Shangula said he has no information that men are having sex with one another in prison.

He said he is currently pre-occupied with the fight against Covid-19.

“I have no information whether sex between men is taking place in correctional facilities. You can ask the portfolio minister. My preoccupation is Covid-19 that is affecting and killing Namibians,” he briefly said.

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