THE question of whether prisoners, in this case male prisoners, should be supplied with condoms is another issue that is currently just as divisive as it is troubling to the powers-that-be.
Some people believe that we (Zambians) have to choose between the fight against the spread of HIV on the one hand, and the laws of the land as well as Africa’s strong morals that are against such practices as sodomy on the other.
Following reports of two male inmates caught red-handed in the sexual act at Lusaka Central Prison, advocates of condom distribution in prisons may surely feel they have a strong case on their side.
Unfortunately for them, this is in conflict with the law which prohibits and spells out penalties for any acts against the order of nature.
Not very long ago as Home Affairs Minister, Edgar Lungu (now Defence minister) referred to the Penal Code and the Prisons Act, stating that the Government had no intentions of supplying prisoners with condoms as this would encourage sodomy, which is illegal in Zambia.
The minister said supplying condoms in prisons would be just as good as encouraging homosexual practices among inmates.
Mr Lungu’s comments came in response to media reports that sodomy had become rampant in Zambia’s prisons. He promised that the Government would discuss the issue with other stakeholders in an effort to find a lasting solution to the problem.
As of now the question of supplying condoms in prisons is certainly not here and there and it would be strange if part of the solution would be this.
The morally acceptable way forward should, therefore, be the behavioural change programmes suggested by some inmates at Lusaka and Mwembeshi prisons. Meanwhile, prison authorities should continue to enforce the law against sodomy, as Commissioner of Prisons Percy Chato says, in accordance with the Penal Code and Prisons Act.