News Report: Uganda Parliament Proposes Death Penalty in New HIV/AIDS Bill
May 19th, 2010
Update 5/20: Warren Throckmorton was able to obtain a copy of the proposed legislation. It appears that the news report below is in error. There is no death penalty provision. There are, however several other problems with the bill, which I will investigate further when I get a chance to do so. One of the first things I noticed however is that this provision criminalizing intentional transmission of HIV is remarkably different from the similar provision in the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. Whether you agree with the intent to of the HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control Bill or not, it is instructive that there is at least an attempt to define intentional transmission, an attempt that is entirely missing from the Anti-Homosexuality Bill.
Please feel free to look over the bill and add your own observations in the comments.
The long awaited HIV/AIDS control bill has been tabled in Parliament for the first reading today morning.
The bill seeks to penalize deliberate spread of HIV/AIDS, with death as the maximum punishment.
This bill however has been widely criticized by the International community as it is likely to increase stigma against people living with HIV/AIDS.
The chairperson of the comiittee (sic), Beatrice Rwakimari tabled the bill including the certificate of financial implications.
The Speaker of Uganda Parliament, Edward Kiwanuka Ssekandi referred the bill to the Social Services committee for scrutiny.
This provision appears similar to one of the death-penalty clauses in the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. That portion of the bill reads as follows:
3. Aggravated homosexuality.
(1) A person commits the offense of aggravated homosexuality where the
(a) person against whom the offence is committed is below the age of 18 years;
(b) offender is a person living with HIV;
(c) offender is a parent or guardian of the person against whom the offence is committed;
(d) offender is a person in authority over the person against whom the offence is committed;
(e) victim of the offence is a person with disability;
(f) offender is a serial offender, or
(g) offender applies, administers or causes to be used by any man or woman any drug, matter or thing with intent to stupefy overpower him or her so as to there by enable any person to have unlawful carnal connection with any person of the same sex,
(2) A person who commits the offence of aggravated homosexuality shall be liable on conviction to suffer death.
(3) Where a person is charged with the offence under this section, that person shall undergo a medical examination to ascertain his or her HIV status.
Clause 3. (1) (b) was often cited to support the claim that the Anti-Homosexuality Bill would impose the death penalty for the “deliberate” spread of HIV, but it is important to note that the bill contains no requirement that the intent be deliberate at all. In fact, the third subclause would suggest that the death penalty would apply upon receiving a positive serostatus result from an HIV test, which might very well be the first time the charged individual would know he or she was HIV-positive. Alternately, if the accused already knew he was HIV-positive, the proposed bill provides no acknowledgment that the accused’s partner may have known about it and entered into a consensual relationship.
Health care professionals worry that the effect of the entire provision would be to discourage people from learning their HIV status.
A few weeks ago, the Monitor, Uganda’s largest independent newspaper, reported that a Cabinet subcommittee tasked to examine the Anti-Homosexuality Bill recommended that portions of the bill be passed as amendments to other pieces of legislation. Until now, speculation mainly centered around Clause 13 of the bill which would criminalize the “promotion” of homosexuality, which the subcommittee decided should be passed. It is unclear what recommendations the subcommittee offered with regard to the death penalty for people with HIV.
We currently don’t have the text of the new proposed legislation but are seeking it from anyone who may have access to it.
Update: Human Rights Watch reacts:
“The bill contains measures that have been proven ineffective against the AIDS epidemic and that violate the rights of people living with HIV,” said Joe Amon, Health and Human Rights director at Human Rights Watch. “The HIV epidemic in Uganda is getting worse, and this bill is another example of misguided, ideological approaches and lack of leadership.”
The bill as currently written codifies discredited approaches to the AIDS epidemic and contains dangerously vague criminal provisions. Contrary to international best practices, the bill would criminalize HIV transmission and behavior that might result in transmission by those who know their HIV status.
The bill would discourage voluntary HIV testing, while making testing mandatory for pregnant women, their partners, suspected perpetrators and victims of sexual offenses, drug users, and prostitutes, in violation of fundamental principles of consent. The bill also allows medical practitioners to disclose a patient’s HIV status to others, breaching confidentiality standards. These provisions could potentially endanger those who are infected by exposing them to stigma, discrimination, and physical violence.
HRW’s statement doesn’t mention any death penalty provision in the earlier drafts of the bill.