Reveal status or else

2015-07-07 09:31
Zimbabwean parliamentary speaker Advocate Jacob Mudenda.

Zimbabwean parliamentary speaker Advocate Jacob Mudenda. (Jonathan Erasmus)

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THE Southern African Development Community Parliamentary Forum (SADC PF) is exploring criminalising the transmission of HIV/Aids.

Malawian Vice-President Joseph Njobvuyalema told the media that among several policies being discussed and motions to be brought forward to the SADC PF, which includes trade and finance, youth development, infrastructure and spatial development, he said there was a motion on the table to criminalise HIV transmission.

Njobvuyalema was on the media briefing panel with SA Parliament speaker Baleka Mbete and Zimbabwean parliamentary speaker advocate Jacob Mudenda.

“This will enable transmission to be a criminal offence if a person does not disclose their status. This [motion] is about those who do not disclose they are HIV positive and that this will be a criminal offence.”

Njobvuyalema said motions come from the floor to be discussed by the SADC PF.

But Njobvuyalema said for any policy or law to be passed it would need to be “lawful”.

Pushed for further clarification, Mudenda said Zimbabwe had criminalised the transmission of HIV/Aids, but that it had been overturned by their Constitutional Court.

“It was overruled and struck off …” he said.

Mudenda said when it comes to the “enforceability” of SADC laws, each state must take the legislation through a “stage of domestication”, a process similar to when a state recognises legislation passed by the United Nations.

Treatment Action Campaign’s head of policy Marcus Low said the discussion surrounding the criminalisation of disclosure is not a new issue but has been “strongly” discouraged by the UN, a South African law review and several global studies.

“I cannot see this passing constitutional muster in South Africa. It is an issue of constitutional right. It will also discourage people from testing.”

Low said there is existing criminal law that makes “sufficient provision” for anyone who would “intentionally infect someone else”.

“And if you agree to sleep with someone without protection you are not taking responsibility for your own health. It is not unproblematic if people do not disclose, but laws like this will have serious impact on people’s rights such as that of their body and dignity.”

The press conference was hosted as a precursor to a weeklong sitting of the SADC PF 37th plenary session under the theme of “Industrialisation for SADC regional development and integration and the role of parliaments” at the Zimbali Fairmont Hotel, Ballito.

Various speakers called for the formation of an SADC Parliament.

Mbete said while SADC has an executive and judiciary arm, she said the region lacked a united parliament.

Vice-chairperson of the Regional Women Parliamentary Conference Thulisile Dladla said greater emphasis needed to be placed on gender equity within positions of power throughout the region. She said legislation should be considered to force gender quotas on member states as one tool of creating gender parity

Read more on:    durban  |  hiv/aids

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