NAIROBI, September 3 – Kenyans love to be moral; and in many cases unreasonably so. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against principle, honour, and ethics among those in authority. But the problem comes in when this ‘morality’ is out of place and supersedes a due diligence to be responsible.
For instance, it was for a long time ‘wrong’ to distribute condoms to school boys and girls. Parents would not have it, school administrators tried to downplay the extent of sexual relations within educational institutions, religious leaders were up in arms and the students were more creative in hiding their escapades.
But at the end of the day, faced with occurrences like ‘pent-harmony’ (fivesome), and students who were more ready to face ‘reality’ and moral decadence than the adults who bore them, eventually distributing condoms in schools has served to drastically reduce the number of teenage pregnancies reported in schools.
A survey conducted by the University of Nairobi as far back as September 2000 among 780 respondents aged between 10 and 19 years, found that most young people knew what a condom was and how to use it, yet they still fell victim to pregnancies (and consequent unsafe abortions) and Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) because the condoms were inaccessible. Case closed.
It’s now 2008, and the same scenario is playing out in the country’s male prisons. Attempts to distribute condoms to inmates are being resisted, because of fears that it would promote homosexuality.
It is common knowledge that more often than not those just getting into jail are ‘raped’ as part of an ‘initiation process’. It is not a pretty picture. It is not a good thing. It is almost impossible to prove and prosecute inmates due to shame and unwillingness to press charges. But the end result has been sky-high rates of HIV infections within the penal institutions, inevitably making them dens of death rather than places of correction.
Liverpool VCT, which offers free HIV testing and counselling, recently visited several prisons across the country to look at ways of containing infections within them.
Allan Passiany, who was ‘distraught’ by what he saw in the prisons said: “it’s unreasonable that they’re making this problem out to be of a ‘homosexual’ nature. Because of their fears, people are dying! If they will not let us give out condoms, let them allow conjugal visits.”
It is high time prison authorities accepted this reality check: inmates will continue to have sex and be ‘initiated’ with or without the condoms. What is your moral responsibility in saving their lives?