ZLHR Makes Progress Towards Decriminalizing HIV Infection

THE Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) say they have made strides in engaging key stakeholders  around the subject of repealing  Section 79 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act in a bid to ensure a free and non discriminatory environment for people living with with HIV.

The law criminalizes  willful HIV transmission but according to legal experts, it is too general and thus can not be used as an HIV or health law. 

By Michael Gwarisa

Tinashe Mundawarara, programme manager for the HIV, Human Rights and Law Project at ZLHR,  recently told  a gathering at the launch of the EMTCT Committee that said engagements are still ongoing and they had made progress towards their efforts to have the law scrapped from statutes saying it was a general criminal and thus can not be used to prosecute such cases as HIV transmission.

“We approached the constitutional court based on the old constitution as we have said that the piece of legislation violated section 18 and section 23 of the old Constitution. Section 18 of the old constitution was one equal protection of  the law which we now find in the current constitution amendment number 20 of 2013 under the non discrimination.

“We are saying that the section was violating the equal protection of the  law that the each and every person must know what the law precisely provides for so that they can managed their conduct  to fall within the dictates of the law. The second aspect under section 23 was on discrimination,  we were saying it discriminates against people living with HIV (PLHIV)  so unfortunately the court then said (In the case of Kombai and the Registrar General)  the aspect of HIV was not listed the previous constitution as a ground of discrimination and therefore is was not  an unlawful discrimination. On section 18 they said the law  was framed precise enough to guide conduct as it were,” said Mundawarara.

He added that they were engaging with the Ministry of Health and Child Care (MoHCC), the National Aids Council (NAC), the Parliamentary portfolio on Health  and Public Health Bill engagement meetings on how best Zimbabwe could effect the changes and reform to the law.

“”The engagement and advocacy is still ongoing, we are also working with the SADC Parliamentray forum level to push for these reforms. The concern however is that only intentional and deliberate transmission of HIV should be criminalized and not the court convicting based on conjecture and likelihood and things like that.

“There is debate, some want the whole package gone while some want a part of the law repealed.”

 

 

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