September 22, 2013
By Fatima Schroeder, IOL News
Cape Town - The 41-year-old man suing the minister of correctional services for damages after he contracted HIV when he was raped in Allendale Prison, in Paarl, in 1999, fits the typical profile of inmates who are at heightened risk of sexual abuse in detention.
This is according to a report, compiled by an organisation that works with prisoners, that forms part of an application the man has lodged at the Western Cape High Court.
“He is of small build, timid demeanour, non-aggressive, youthful and smooth-faced (and would have been much more so in 1999) and he was in prison for the first time. These features would make him a classic target of sexual abuse,” the report, compiled by South Africa programme director of Just Detention International, Sasha Gear, stated.
The man, who cannot be identified, alleges that he was raped in October 1999 -- his first day in prison awaiting trial -- after he had been arrested for murder.
In 2001, he was convicted and sentenced to 15 years behind bars.
He was transferred to another prison and discovered in March 2002 that he was HIV positive.
In 2009, he was released on parole.
The Just Detention International report was compiled to assess the reasons why the man had not sought redress while he was in prison.
It forms part of an application he had lodged, asking the court to condone his failure to give the state notice of his intention to sue within a prescribed period of time.
However, in it Gear pointed out that the man’s features were strongly associated with increased vulnerability to sexual victimisation behind bars.
She added that warders at the prison also drew negative attention to the man by shouting, “Here is the rubbish”, so that fellow inmates could hear.
Such a comment, according to Gear, exacerbated risks of violence, in addition to it being humiliating and unprofessional.
Gear said the widespread prison power dynamic, in which newly arrived, inexperienced prisoners were targeted for abuse by other inmates, could start in police and court holding cells or police vans.
She added that the mixing of hardened prisoners with inexperienced newcomers presented grave dangers for new inmates, including the risk of sexual violence.
Such mixing suggested either a blatant lack of concern for inmates’ well-being or that corruption was at play, in addition to a lack of concern.
“Notably, it is not unusual for corrupt warders to take bribes from sexual predators to bring them specific inmates for sex and to accommodate them together,” she added.
Gear has been working in the field of sexual violence and sexual health in South African men’s prisons since 2001.