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Gay inmate gets special cell

by Staff reporter
10 Jul 2016 at 09:51hrs | Views
THE South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg has ordered the Department of Justice and Correctional Services to move a gay prisoner to a single cell or to a cell with inmates of the same sexual orientation.

Tumelo Mapodile, a gay inmate doing time at Johannesburg Medium B Correctional Centre, known popularly as Sun City, brought an application against Justice and Correctional Services Minister Michael Masutha and three others after he was harassed by other prisoners.

In his submission made in April, Mapodile complained that he was accommodated in one cell with inmates of different sexual orientation. The inmates regarded him as a woman and continuously harassed him. He said prison authorities had ignored his numerous complaints even after he had submitted a letter from a doctor.

In the letter, Dr RC Wrinbarnn pleaded for Mapodile to be moved to a single cell as he was gay and was being harassed by other inmates. Judge Majake Mabesele ruled in favour of Mapodile, saying certain regulations in the constitution protect the rights of gay people in custody.

This was just like it protects those suffering from chronic or mental illness whose health status will be affected detrimentally or whose health poses a threat to other inmates if detained in a communal cell.

Mabesele said gays who are in custody should also have their "right to dignity, to privacy and to healthcare protected due to their peculiar status".

He said Reggy Pooe from the office of the state attorney had advised that accommodation was available for Mapodile in a cell occupied by two inmates of the same sexual orientation.

However, this was provided Mapodile was prepared to sleep on the floor as there are insufficient beds in that cell.

Mapodile did not have difficulties sleeping on the floor and pointed out that he had been sleeping on the floor in the cell he had been accommodated in.

Pooe also said due to overcrowding it was not always possible for the prison authorities to accommodate gay people in separate cells.

"Gays and lesbians had been part of our society for many years," said Mabesele. "They are not associated with a particular race as perceived by some members of our society. African people, particularly Basotho, guided by their forefathers, had been using the word tarasi for many years to describe gay or lesbian."

He blamed the preference for Christianity from other religions prior to 1994 for promoting "stereotype societal behaviour which denied gays and lesbians freedom of expression which includes freedom to express feelings".

"Their integrity was not accepted. They were subjected to emotional torture, to say the least, and were forced to subordinate themselves to the societal norms and values and cultural practices which only recognised heterosexuality and widely accepted definition of ‘man', ‘woman' and ‘spouse' as explained in the Bible."

In 2001, the Jali Commission of Inquiry into conditions in prisons heard evidence of gross human rights violations against lesbian and gay people.

A gay former prisoner, Louis Karp, testified that one of his prison warders had "sold" him to a gang of four other prisoners, who raped him for two months.

Karp also told the commission he was threatened, humiliated and forced to have sex with warders.

The commission said in its final report that evidence given by gay and transsexual prisoners showed that homophobia is alive and very real among warders. This was more prevalent in cases where the victims of sexual violence were gay.

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