Wed | Nov 22, 2017

Patria-Kaye Aarons | 'Equal Rights' to conjugal visits

Published:Tuesday | August 1, 2017 | 12:00 AM

The minister of national security makes it clear that the issue of conjugal visits in prisons isn't yet carved in stone. It's up for discussion. Well, Mr Minister, I want to join in on the discussion.

In all the discourse I've heard and read on the matter of the conjugal visits, it's been very gender specific. Lots of 'reward him' and 'his partner' and 'he'. But what about 'her'? I want to stand in the gap for female prisoners. Will they be allowed to get conjugal visits, too? If not, mi a block road. Placard ready!

Any and every rationale put on the table to justify why male prisoners should get conjugal visits applies to women as well. All the arguments about preservation of family and healthy relationships, satisfying sexual desires, prison rape reduction, and incentivising good behaviour shouldn't just apply to men in penal institutions. Women need all of that, too.

History is full of men being rewarded for good behaviour with vagina. Suicide bombers get 72 virgins, men get birthday sex, powerful biblical kings had multiple wives. You're hard-pressed to find the reverse.

If you're going to reward good-behaving male prisoners with access to the pleasures of the flesh, there's no reason good-behaving women shouldn't be able to collect their penis prize. Women have needs, too. Believe me. Plenty.

The gender issues pose a few complications that I urge the minister to consider.

For example, buggery is illegal, but whatever it is that lesbians do, the greatest risk I think they pose is arson from all that friction. Lesbian loving isn't illegal. If a female prisoner has a prisoner girlfriend, since that relationship isn't illegal, can the two schedule weekly sex time together? If they're really, really good, can they request to be cell mates?

 

Married prisoners

 

There's talk that the privilege will only be extended to married prisoners and those who are in a stable common-law relationship as defined by our laws. I object to that. Seems like another sin tax. Many Jamaica women have merely visiting relationships, even with the fathers of their children. Will those partners be disallowed from being named on the conjugal visitors list? It should be facilitated.

What if the ladies are good-behaving but went in single? What of their needs? If an inmate falls in love with a pen pal, can that person be allowed to visit and see where things go?

Here's another consideration.

If the intention is to 'ease the pressure', why not allow masturbation?

I understand that masturbation currently is not allowed in the Jamaican prison system. I'm still not sure how they police it. I've heard two people are never housed in a cell. The number is either one or three, in the hopes that the threesome will dissuade inmates from having sex. Nevertheless, I don't know about here, but in the US, the penalties for inmates getting intimate with themselves are stiff. They range from something as small as a fine, to getting cut off from the commissary, to being placed in solitary confinement all the way up to having your sentence extended.

Here's an idea. A little room designated for self-pleasure, no different from a conjugal visit room, might help. No policing necessary, no baby nine months later, no sexually transmitted infections (STIs), just a little clean-up on aisle two.

I'm not against conjugal visits for any inmate, no matter the gender. The benefits are clear, and if the objective of prison is reintegration, some semblance of connection must be kept with the outside world - emotional and physical connections especially.

Safeguards must be put in place to ensure pregnancy and STI contractions are prevented. Perhaps contraceptives can form part of the conjugal agreement. The details are for the Ministry of National Security to work out. All I want in the consideration is 'Equal Rights'.

- Patria-Kaye Aarons is a television presenter and confectioner. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and findpatria@yahoo.com, or tweet @findpatria.