Underage detainees sexually active, says former inmate

UNDERAGE detainees are sexually active in boys' homes, with some of the younger boys attacked by older detainees, one former inmate claimed.

Many of the boys believed they should be allowed conjugal visits with their girlfriends, which would relieve the sexual tension inside the homes.

Gary, 16, who has been sent to a boys' home twice over the past two years for criminal offences, said many of the boys were sexually active while being held in detention.

Many inmates had sex as frequently as once or twice a week with a regular partner, as well as occasionally sexually assaulting some of the home's new comers, he said.

''They are not gay, they do it simply because of the sexual desire. They treat their partner like a girlfriend,'' Gary said.

''The older guys usually pick good-looking newcomers who have got no protection from other 'powerful' inmates at the home.

''But the victims usually dare not complain because they will be beaten afterwards,'' Gary said.

He said it was difficult for social workers to control the problem, which could affect up to 300 boys currently living in boys' homes.

''Of course it is not good. You may be infected with AIDS,'' Gary said.

''There is no way out. The boys are not afraid of punishment, which can only go as far as isolation for a few days or lengthening the probation period,'' he said.

While agreeing sex education could help solve the problem, he suggested a more direct solution which he said was a view shared by many of his former inmates.

''Girls should be allowed to go into the boys' homes. They can leave after making love with the inmates,'' he said.

A non-governmental organisation social worker, Cheung Hou-poo, said more sex education was needed.

A recent court case in which three inmates were found guilty of sexually assaulting a 16-year-old inmate was rare because it took a great deal of courage for the victim to speak up, the social worker said.

Another social worker said sometimes the victim would complain, but still did not want to bring the case to the police.

''If we find any boys sleeping too close together when we inspect the rooms at night, we separate them,'' the social worker said.

A Social Welfare Department spokesman said the court case had been the only one involving sexual assault at youth homes in the past few years.

Any sexual assault case would be reported to the police and talks were held regularly at the homes on health, including sex education, the spokesman said.

She did not agree with the idea of allowing girls to go into boys' homes for sex.

She said the correct attitude towards life had to be instilled in the inmates.