- South Africa's Jali Commission of Inquiry has begun the process of hearing evidence in regards to the gross human rights violations suffered by lesbian and gay people in the country's prison system. A gay ex-prisoner told the Commission how he was "sold" by his warder to a gang of prisoners who systematically raped him.
The Jali Commission is looking into the many allegations of gross human rights violations the South African Prison System. Current hearings are focusing on rights violations based on sexual orientation in national prisons.
While the rights of sexual minorities are guaranteed by the South African constitution, gay and lesbian activist groups, such as the Gay Equality Project, have for a long time claimed they could document systematic rights violations in prisons.
Equality, before the hearing, claimed that gay and lesbian "prisoners were repeatedly raped with the knowledge of the Department of Correctional Services - without the Department taking action to stop these offences taking place." Further, the group claimed that "homosexual men are bought and sold for sexual purposes and for the financial benefit of Correctional Services Personnel."
These claims were now repeated by a gay ex-prisoner, Louis Karp, who has given his testimony to the Jali Commission. He told the Commission that one of his prison warders had "sold" him to a gang of four other prisoners, who systematically raped him during two months.
Further, Mr Karp could tell the Commission about being forced to have sex with warders, who also were said to have regularly humiliated, threatened and abused him. His tales also tell about organised criminality within the prisons, where prisoners and warders openly cooperated in the sale of goods and sex and protected each other.
Mr Karp also said that he had at one time laid charge against a prisoner who had raped him in his cell. The only reaction to this had been that he was put in solitary confinement while the alleged rapist was left without sanctions. Mr Karp thereafter had been placed back in the cell together with his alleged rapist.
The Gay and Lesbian Equality Project in March is to deliver its testimony to the Commission, focusing on the treatment of gays, lesbians and transsexuals in South Africa's jails, saying it "welcomes this opportunity, provided by the President and the Commission."
So far, the group holds, the Department of Correctional Services "has failed and continues to fail to develop or implement any policy that seeks to address the systematic violation of the rights" of lesbians and gays in prison. Further, Equality holds, "there remain high levels of homophobia within some elements within the Department."
- This failure to protect inmates also constitutes a clear breach by the state of its constitutional obligations and its obligations in terms of the international treaties and protocols, the gay activists hold.
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