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Spotlight Series: HIV Stigma and Discrimination
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Prison Sex Study Author Calls for Conjugal Visits in India Jails

December 20, 2006

The author of a study of prison sex in India is calling for authorities to allow conjugal visits to decrease unprotected sex among male inmates and lower the risk of HIV transmission.

Although homosexuality is illegal in India, sex behind bars is "an open secret," said study author Mridul Srivastava, who teaches criminal law at Lucknow University. The fear of being seen as tolerant of gay sex, he said, keeps correctional officials from distributing condoms or testing prisoners for HIV.

Srivastava studied 1,000 married male prisoners in jails in Lucknow and New Delhi, of whom 82 percent said they had sex, or attempted to have sex, with other male inmates. In addition, the study found that inmates ages 19 to 26 were sometimes forced into sex by older men.

"Condoms should be used in jails," Srivastava said. "We don't know how many convicts are HIV-positive because no medical tests for it are carried out."

Srivastava noted that prisoners were permitted conjugal visits under British colonial rule, which ended in 1947. "The British knew the sexual urge of prisoners should not be suppressed," he said, noting that such visits "[ensured] criminals were in a better frame of mind."

But S.P. Singh, a senior official at the Lucknow jail, rejected the suggestion. "If we allow meetings between married convicts and their wives in isolation, unmarried prisoners might ask for call girls. Jails are an institution to reform prisoners, not a brothel."

Back to other news for December 20, 2006

Adapted from:
Agence France Presse
12.14.2006; Sachindra Sharma

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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
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