(Note to self: Don’t ever get sent to prison in Africa.)
Prison Gangs Use AIDS Rape as Punishment
JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South African prison gangs are using HIV infection as punishment, ordering gang members carrying the AIDS virus to rape disobedient inmates in a ritual known as “slow puncture,” officials say.
A spokesman for the Judicial Inspectorate of Prisons confirmed on Thursday that the new practice first came to light about six months ago and was believed to be spreading.
The inspectorate's director Gideon Morris told a government commission on Wednesday that the rape would be carried out by one person, or sometimes several.
“They give him a ‘slow puncture,’ meaning he will die over a period of time,” Morris said. “It’s a new phenomenon.”
South Africa has the highest number of people living with HIV in the world, with about 4.8 million people, or one in nine of the country’s population of 42 million, infected with the virus that causes AIDS.
Morris’ testimony on the “slow puncture” ritual was put before the Jali Commission, an inquiry board set up last year to look into allegations of corruption and maladministration in South Africa’s prison network.
Department of Corrections spokesman Russel Mamabolo said department officials could not comment, and would await the commission’s findings before mounting their own investigation.
“This information is still allegations at this stage,” Mamabolo said Thursday.
Morris said it was difficult to say whether AIDS was now the chief cause of death in South African prisons, noting that many prisoners who die of AIDS are listed as dying of natural causes.
He did note, however, that the number of inmates dying of natural causes in jail has risen sharply over the past seven years, jumping from 186 in 1995 to 1,169 last year.
South Africa currently has about 179,000 people in prison, making it second only to the United States in the number of inmates per capita.