n African Human Rights Law Journal - A sexual rights approach to addressing gender-based sexual violence among male prisoners in Malawi




Sexual violence and abuse in prison are largely ignored in Malawi. There has been some advocacy focusing on HIV and AIDS in prisons, and discussions about providing condoms to prisoners, but the issue of sexual violence has for the most part been ignored. However difficult or controversial the issue of sexuality in prison might be, the government has a duty to protect prisoners from sexual violence. It is illusory to think that sexual violence in prisons may be controlled merely by repressing sexual activity. This article suggests that the best way to respond to sexual violence in prison is to follow the expert counsel of the Technical Consultation on Sexual Health convened by the World Health Organisation and World Association of Sexology in 2002. The Consultation suggested that to achieve sexual health, sexuality and sexual relationships should be approached positively and respectfully. Further, the sexual rights of every person must be protected. Sexual rights are already recognised in national laws and policies, international human rights instruments and consensus documents. They include the right of persons to be free from coercion, discrimination and violence in their sexual relationships. Malawi has a panoply of laws and policies designed to advance sexual health and curb gender-based violence, including the Gender Equality Act, the National Policy on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights and sexual offences legislation. In order to end sexual violence and abuse in prisons, these laws and policies must be applied to and implemented in prison. Moreover, these laws and policies must reflect a positive and respectful approach to sexuality and sexual relationships, including those among prisoners.


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