Mayor Mothei is Right: BONELA

5 Ocotober 2009:
Mayor Mothei is Right: BONELA

The Botswana Network on Ethics, Law and HIV and AIDS (BONELA) has read with keen interest the article carried by the Daily News of Tuesday 29 October 2009 in which Mayor Harry Mothei is urging government to provide prisoners with condoms.

We are heartened by the views Mayor Mothei espoused and we commend him for being alive to what pertains on the ground. “Our view as BONELA has always been and continues to be, that prisoners are an integral part of our response to the HIV and AIDS epidemic as they too are not spared by the virus. To think that they do not engage in sexual activities whilst in prison is misguided and unfortunate,” lamented BONELA Acting Director, Uyapo Ndadi, while in the United States of America.

In the said article, it is reported that the National AIDS Coordinating Agency (NACA) countered the call by saying our laws do not allow for provision of condoms to prisoners. However, Ndadi countered this assertion saying that “hiding behind laws that are out of touch with reality does our nation devastating and irreparable harm as precious lives will continue to be lost as a result of AIDS. By the time we realize that we need to have an inclusive and non-judgmental approach, it will be too late.”

Ndadi said laws are not more important than our people’s lives and should not be upheld at the expense of losing our brothers and sisters. He said a crucial question that government should ask itself is who is meant to benefit from these laws and that the Government of Botswana needs to answer these questions candidly. He added that Lesotho, despite the fact that she has laws that prohibit sodomy just like Botswana, does provide prisoners with condoms. “That to us is a model of a responsive and caring nation as it is no secret that prisoners walk in and out of prison everyday and continue to engage sexually with the people from their communities. Giving prisoners condoms is to protect not only them, but the society as well” said Ndadi.

BONELA is however encouraged that political leaders are beginning to see the need to provide inmates with condoms. We gather the former president of Botswana, Mr. Festus Mogae is also advocating for the same. We hope many more political leaders will do the same and act accordingly. We call upon NACA to join on the bandwagon and drive the campaign as they are better placed to pronounce on HIV prevention measures. Failure on their part to do so will amount to failing Batswana.