Anti-gay legislation could ruin health efforts ‘€“ activists

The group consisting of Treatment Action Campaign, SECTION27, the Social Justice Coalition, Community Media Trust and the Coalition Against Discrimination said intolerance of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTIs) people prevented access to and uptake of HIV testing, treatment, prevention and care. ‘€œThe promotion of human rights must be a central part of HIV/AIDS programmes if we are to achieve universal access. It must not be left to a handful of human rights organisations,’€ they said. They commended the release of the Malawian couple, Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga, who were arrested in December 2009 after getting engaged. They were recently sentenced to14 years imprisonment for ‘€˜gross indecency and unnatural acts’€™. The group said the pair’€™s release showed what could be achieved if activists and the international and political communities came together.

They praised the United Nations High Commission on Human Rights, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS and the United Nations Development Programme for their efforts to bring about the release of Monjeza and Chimbalanga.

They also acknowledged President Jacob Zuma for condemning the arrest and his defence of the principles of equality contained in the South African Constitution.

‘€œHowever, while we celebrate the release of Tiwonge and Steven, it cannot undo the torment and humiliation that they endured due to the discriminatory legislation that remains in place Malawi from colonial days. This legislation allows the state to violate the human rights of its citizens due to their sexual orientation,’€ they said.

Examples highlighting the continual persecution of LGBTI groups across the continent:

1. The arrest of Steven and Tiwonge in Malawi and the continued statements against homosexuality by Malawian President Bingu wa Mutharikal.
2. The recent arrests and charging in Zimbabwe of gay rights workers as well as homophobic statements that have been made by Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.
3. The proposed bill in Uganda to impose prison sentences and in some cases the death sentence for people engaging in same sex relationships. It now appears that the bill will not succeed, again due to pressure across the globe.
4. Calls from the Forum of Born Again Churches of Rwanda (FOBACOR) to implement a penal code that will impose prison sentences of five to ten years for any person who practices, encourages or sensitises people of the same sex to sexual relations or any sexual practice.

They called for discriminatory legislation and human rights violations to be addressed and demanded that LGBTI groups be brought into the international political arena and reinforced at intergovernmental bodies such as the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the African Union (AU).


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