By Alfred Mthandizi
Malawi’s Civil Society Organizations while commending Parliament Legal Affairs Committee for removing some sections in the HIV and Aids Bill have asked the same Members of Parliament to amend Section 43 which has so far been sustained. Section 43 will apply to people who intentionally act to spread HIV.
Malawi Network of People Living with HIV Program Manager, George Kampango says Section 43 is vague and over broad. According to Kampango, Section will violate principal of legality and constitutional rights to a fair trial. “A person who lacks a subjective intention to transmit HIV can be found guilty of intending transmit as inferred from their conduct which is intentional and that the risk of transmitting varies scientifically and empirical evidence shows section 43 will criminalize many innocent people,” said Kampango. Kampango argued that HIV and Aids transmission from one person to another cannot be proved beyond reasonable doubt.
Chairperson of Social welfare parliamentary Committee, Richard Chimwendo Banda says section 43 of the Bill should indeed be removed because it will be very difficult to prove the case based on the section. Banda said the said section will drive many people to suffer emotionally and that some might commit suicide.
Malawi Congress Party chief whip Lobin Lowe, United Democratic Front Lilian Patel, Peoples Party Chief whip Ramp Jooma all spoke against section 43 of the Bill even some Members of Parliament from the ruling DPP quashed the section accusing it as a bad law.
Chairperson of Parliamentary Committee on HIV and Aids Deus Gumbwa says their committee is the committee for the people. Gumbwa said the bill will be tabled on Tuesday 28 November, 2017 with amendment in the August to allow it pass without section 43.
Stakeholders have described the new HIV and AIDS Bill as ‘a bad law’ and a disaster to happen as it is discriminatory and will impede the fight against AIDS. The bill includes mandatory HIV testing for pregnant women and their partners, and allows medical providers to disclose a patient’s HIV status to others. The bill also criminalizes HIV transmission, attempted transmission, and behavior that might result in transmission by those who know their HIV status.
Centre for Human Rights Education, Advice and Assistance (CHREAA), Manet Plus and Action Aid have been organizing various meetings to look into issues of that nature. With such lobbying it is understood that issues of Mandatory HIV testing, disclosure of medical information without consent, have been removed.