The Sonke Gender Justice is working in prisons in the Western Cape to reduce new HIV infections and increase positive living amongst staff and inmates both while in prison and upon release.

The nature and scope of the programme

The Sonke Gender Justice will seek to reduce HIV infections in prisons, by:

  • Identifying the social networks amongst inmates and popular opinion leaders to take on risk-reduction advocacy roles.
  • Training DCS staff on HIV prevention, gender and health-focusing both on DCS staff and inmates.
  • Providing information and encouraging responsible behaviour amongst inmates and staff in relation to HIV/AIDS, gender, sexual and reproductive health issues.
  • Training cadres of opinion leaders to disseminate risk reduction endorsement messages within their own prison based social networks.
  • Initiating and supporting awareness raising activities in the correctional facilities.
  • Setting up a monitoring and evaluation framework to assess project progress.

In 2006,2007, the Sonke Gender Justice Network worked in four prisons in the Western Cape: Drakensein Juveniles, Marmesbury Juveniles, Dwarsrivier Adults, and Goodwood Adults.
In 2007/2008, Sonke will continue to provide support to these prisons and will initiate activities in four more prison facilities.

Why is this programme necessary?

According to the 2005-2006 Annual Report of the Judicial Inspectorate of Prisons, there are 240 prisons in South Africa, ranging in size from 31 prisoners to 3000 prisoners.  As of the end of 2005, 157,402 people were housed in prisons, of whom 46,327 were awaiting-trial.  Men make up 98% of prisoners.
High-risk sex is commonplace in South African prisons, usually in the form of unprotected anal sex, as well as rape and sexual assault.  Gang violence too is common and sex is innately intertwined with gang life.  The two most powerful gangs are the 26s and 28s with the latter’s power structure being based “on homosexual partnerships and the prostitution of designated male inmates”.
In 2006 the Jali Commission reported on its inquiry into alleged incidences of corruption and misconduct within the Correctional Services.  One of the key areas examined by the Jali Commission was sexual violence within the prison system and the spread of HIV/AIDS.
According to an Institute of Security Studies (ISS) report carried out in 2003, HIV prevalence in South Africa’s prisons is approximately 41% and 90-95% of deaths are AIDS-related.  According to the same report, conditions inside South Africa’s prisons contribute significantly to both the transmission and progression of HIV.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that prison rape fules a cycle of victimization and perpetration and contributes to the rape of women, men and children and to the spread of HIV/AIDS in the communities when inmates are released.