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Churches condemn condoms in Malawi prisons

July 11, 2003

Leading clergy in Malawi have condemned proposals by some members of parliament, that condoms be freely distributed to inmates around the country's prisons, to check the spread of HIV/AIDS, following rampant homosexual practices in the institutions. That is according to the African Church Information Service.

Members of the National Assembly were sharply split, when Loveness Gondwe, an opposition MP, blamed the government for not taking action against widespread sodomy in prisons.

He told the government to stop pretending sex was not taking place in jails. "Prisoners are citizens like everybody else and must be protected from the AIDS scourge with free condoms," charged Gondwe, in response to a report by the Inspectorate of Prisons, that deplored inhuman conditions in most of the country's 23 prisons.

But some MPs spoke strongly against the idea, arguing that it would defeat the concept of rehabilitation, as inmates were not allowed any social pleasures in the course of serving their sentences.

Church leaders were particularly irked by the proposal, saying homosexuality was a sin, and that promoting condoms in prisons would encourage immorality among inmates.

Pastor Gibson Nachiye of the Deeper Life Church, and Bishop Andrew Dube of the Assemblies of God, issued a stern criticism against the move during a press interview here. "Homosexuality is a sin before God, therefore, such act as distribution of condoms would only encourage immorality," noted pastor Nachiye.

Bishop Dube, on the other hand, quashed another suggestion by some members who favoured the idea of occasionally allowing prisoners to sexually interact with their spouses.

"When one is in prison he is denied the right to freedom and social life. Bringing wives for prisoners would be killing the whole idea for confining wrongdoers," affirmed Bishop Dube.

Generally, churches in Malawi have been opposing free distribution of condoms to check AIDS. The Catholic Church commands the largest following, with 8 million members out of Malawi's 10 million population.

It has been in the forefront in discouraging the faithful from using condoms, even for family planning purposes.

The clergy assert that even though Malawi is one of the most badly affected country in southern Africa by HIV/AIDS, condoms are not the solution.

They have, accordingly, embarked on various programmes to promote abstinence, especially among the youth.

- Behind The Mask

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