Sex plays an important role in our social lives. Apart from procreation, it brings to the
participating individuals emotional and physical fulfilment required to keep them hale and
hearty. A good sex life is believed to bring to the individual benefits such as lower blood
pressure, reduced stress, improved mood, enhanced immune function, general fitness among
Sexuality, the way people express themselves sexually, is a subject which arouses diverse
opinions in Ghana. This is because, the Ghanaian, traditionally, recognizes heterosexual
relationships as the accepted form of sexuality. Homosexual relationships, though abhorred by
the greater populace, is creeping into the Ghanaian society. Regardless the sexual orientation of
an individual, sexual satisfaction remains the ultimate goal.
Prisons in Ghana house only adults, making it easy to assert that most incarcerated persons are
sexually active. Among the many deprivations prisoners in Ghana endure is sex, as prison rules
disallow all forms of sexual acts. Additionally, prison regulations make no provision for conjugal
visits which permit spouses of incarcerated persons to spend intimate moments with their
partners. Some prisoners, in the circumstance, resort to same-sex relationships to feed their
How effective is the ‘no sex’ regulation?
Ghana, like other jurisdictions, house male and female prisoners in different facilities preventing
any contact between the two sexes.
To alleviate the pains of imprisonment, some prisoners risk the consequences and engage in
sexual acts as asserted in Erving Goffman’s 1969 work, ‘The Presentation of Self in Everyday
Life’. He posited that, inmates may have to adjust their sexual practices while incarcerated by
engaging in illegal methods in order to obtain certain forms of satisfaction.
The issue of same-sex relationships in our prisons is gradually becoming topical as prisons
mirror the wider society. There have even been claims by some ex-convicts to the effect that
same-sex relationships and rape exist in our facilities. Though most of these claims are blown out
of proportion, there are certain levels of truth in them. An incident at the Ankaful Maximum
Security Prison in June 2016 where a male prisoner slashed the penis of another prisoner who
attempted to rape him paints a picture of how the act is viewed by a majority of prisoners. The
practice, nicknamed ‘Kpee’, is treated as a taboo throughout Ghana’s prisons. That
notwithstanding, there are few instances where prisoners report attempted rape by fellow
prisoners to prison staff. These reports are swiftly investigated and appropriate sanctions handed
to sex predators.
Who is at risk of being preyed on?
A number of inmates who have suffered sexual harassment in our jails are from poor homes and
or receive little or no family support during their jail terms. Prison ration, which mostly is
insufficient, becomes their only means of survival.
The overcrowding rate in our facilities stand at 52.87% with 15,203 prisoners struggling for
9,945 spaces. This gives little room for prison administrators to do a proper classification of
inmates to either prevent contamination or limit the exposure of low risk prisoners to hardened
ones. First offenders who find themselves in same cells as powerful recidivists are sometimes
coerced to trade their bodies for sleeping spaces.
Challenges faced in the area of feeding still exist. The feeding rate of GH 1.80 per prisoner daily
has stagnated for close to a decade making it almost impossible to provide three wholesome
meals. The quest to keep body and soul together in some circumstances result in poor prisoners
kowtowing to the pressures of their rich colleagues. Affluent prisoners in search of sexual
gratification sometimes resort to these weaklings as the provision of food and other necessities,
sometimes, is more than enough to lure them into same-sex relationships.
Prison staff mostly have difficulty in detecting these relationships since most sex offenders
employ coercive and non-violent tactics to win over partners. Additionally, prisoners often
underreport overtures for fear of being labeled as informants or becoming subjects of physical
Are conjugal visits the way to go?
In looking for a solution to the emerging scourge of sexual relationships behind bars, conjugal
visits come to mind. The system, which runs in some prisons around the world, permits prisoners
to host their spouses in specially built quarters for specific periods. The key to these special
quarters, in most cases, is good conduct. Apart from the emotional and physical need of sex that
the system presents, prison authorities use it as a bait to enforce prisoner discipline.
Ghana’s prison system in my estimation, is still some miles away from being ripe for such an
Deficiencies as regards feeding, overcrowding, inadequate reformation and rehabilitation
modules and others that the Service currently endures need to be given needed attention as they
together possess, though indirectly, an antidote to fighting sex predators.
The fact is, if prisons are not resourced to correct the offending behaviours of prisoners, they are
sure to return to haunt society. This confirms the saying of Marquis de Sade, a French author,
that “any punishment that does not correct is a piece of gratuitous infamy which makes those
who impose it more guilty in the eyes of humanity, a hundred times more guilty than the victim
on whom the punishment is inflicted.”
DSP. DANIEL MACHATOR
CENTRAL REGIONAL PRO
GHANA PRISONS SERVICE