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Rio de Janeiro, July 5 (IANS/EFE) Gay prisoners who register their respective partner or companion with prison officials will have the right to receive them for conjugal visits in all of Brazil's jails, a note published in the official gazette says.

The decision of the National Criminal and Penitentiary Policy Council, a Justice Ministry agency, guarantees and extends across the entire country a right for gays that was already accepted in some states including Rio de Janeiro and Pernambuco.

'The right to a conjugal visit must be guaranteed to prisoners of either sex who are married, who live in a stable union or who have a homosexual relationship,' the resolution says.

The measure goes into effect immediately and revokes a resolution of March 1999 that regulated conjugal visits in all prisons but purposely did not state whether gay prisoners of either sex should have the right to that benefit.

The omission was used by some wardens to deny that right to prisoners in a stable same-sex relationship.

According to the new regulation, the conjugal visit must be guaranteed by penitentiary authorities at least once a month and cannot be prohibited or suspended as a disciplinary measure, except in cases where the infraction being sanctioned is linked to the improper use of that right.

The resolution adds that prisoners, upon confinement, must register with prison officials the name of their partner or the person they wish to receive for an intimate visit.

The inmate cannot register two or more people at the same time for such visits, and only has the right to register a new name if the previous one is cancelled.

The regulation recommends that the prison instruct inmates on the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases and that it provide a suitable place for conjugal visits, which must be 'reserved' and with its 'privacy and inviolability guaranteed for heterosexual or homosexual relations'.

The Justice Ministry's decision to extend to gay inmates the same right to a conjugal visit as straight prisoners enjoy comes two months after the Federal Supreme Court decreed the same civil rights for homosexual unions that heterosexual unions have.

The court's decision guarantees same-sex couples the identical rights that couples of different sexes have in terms of pensions, inheritance, community property and being accepted as beneficiaries of life and medical insurance policies, while facilitating the adoption of children by gay couples.

--IANS/EFE

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