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Last Updated: Thursday, 24 March, 2005, 18:17 GMT
S Africa moots jail sex reforms
South African jail
Prison officials say convicts have forfeited the right to sex
Inmates of South African jails should be allowed to have consensual sex, the country's prisons watchdog has argued.

The Judicial Inspectorate of Prisons (JIP) said permitting intercourse could reduce rape and encourage safer sex practices among prisoners.

The recommendation followed a complaint from two male prisoners who were punished for having consensual gay sex.

Prison officials oppose the plan. South Africa has the second-highest rate of HIV infection in the world.

A spokesman from the Department of Correctional Services, Manelisi Wolela, told the Reuters news agency people forfeit the right to sexual intercourse when they enter prison.

'Breaking down stigma'

However, Aids lobby groups and human rights groups welcomed the JIP's proposals.

The president of the South African Prisoners Organisation for Human Rights, Golden Miles Bhudu, told the Pretoria News daily that granting prisoners conjugal rights "will mean less prison rapes, less unnatural sexual activity".

Rukia Cornelius, a spokesman for the Aids lobby group Treatment Action Campaign, told Reuters the move will lead to more open-ness and safer sex.

The JIP, which has authority over South Africa's prison service, the Department of Correctional Services, made its recommendation after considering an appeal from two male inmates who were charged with misconduct for having sex.

According to a JIP lawyer, Umesh Raga, permitting sex between prisoners will make it easier to differentiate between "cases where there is consensual and coercive sex".

He said he hoped the measures would break down "stigmatisation" and allow a proper debate to be held.

South Africa's constitution guarantees gays and lesbians protection against prejudice - but homophobia remains commonplace.

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