Authorities in Mozambique have replaced the head of Ndlavela Women’s Penitentiary, Albertina Dimande, over allegations inmates were being forced into prostitution by staff at the correctional centre.
Herminia Nhamuze has been sworn in as the new director of the Maputo-based institution.
Allegations of a prostitution ring at the Penitentiary first emerged in June after an investigation by an anti-corruption organisation, Centre for Public Integrity (CIP), showed that for years prisoners were taken to nearby guest houses to work as prostitutes for wealthy clients.
The victims – past and present inmates – who spoke to undercover journalists led by Borges Nhamirre, said they were forced to have sex several times a week.
They added that if they refused to comply they were beaten or punished with hard labour.
Additionally, the women claimed they had been sexually abused by the prison guards. According to 2019 statistics, Ndlavela Women’s Penitentiary had 125 inmates.
Nhamire said their research showed the sexual exploitation had been going on for 10 years, adding that “it was like a formal business happening in jail.”
He said, “We do not understand how the board of the jail, the commanders could not notice that there was something very strange happening.”
He alleged that the prison guards were benefiting financially from the crime and even advertised when there was a new inmate.
“The payments go from $50 (£35) to $500 per woman. It depends on what they call the quality of the woman: the much younger the more expensive it will be.”
Following the revelation, the government had set up a commission of inquiry, which included the public prosecutor’s office, MPs and human rights defence organisations, to look into the allegations.
In July, the commission confirmed the findings, prompting Mozambique’s Minister of Justice, Justice Minister Helena Kida, to suspend the prison’s entire management.
While swearing in Namuze, Justice Kida warned that she did not want a repetition of what had happened.
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