Death penalty for convicted HIV rapists unconstitutional – Lesotho court

A decision by the constitutional division of Lesotho’s high court has found controversial provisions in that country’s sexual offences law, unconstitutional. In particular, the court held that stipulating the death penalty for a convicted rapist, held to have known he was HIV positive at the time of the crime, infringed the constitutional right to freedom from discrimination and to a right to equality before the law.

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Just over 20 years ago, Lesotho’s then Minister of Justice, Law and Constitutional Affairs, Refiloe Masemene, introduced a new bill on sexual offences to parliament. Among other proposals, accepted by MPs and brought into law, was this: that the penalty for a convicted rapist, aware at the time of the crime that he was HIV Positive, was the death sentence.

‘Demeaning’ to portray counsellor as HIV-positive sex worker? – court rules

A specialised network of organisations responding to the issues of HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis in Kenya has come in for some unwelcome publicity. This after it used a photograph of one of its own staff on its website, with a caption that identified her as "an HIV positive sex worker waiting for treatment". The staffer in the photograph was awarded damages by Kenya's HIV/AIDS tribunal, but her employers appealed. They argued that it was not "demeaning" to say someone was a sex worker nor was she defamed when it was said of her that she was HIV positive.

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Though the world is moving towards de-stigmatising HIV/AIDS, it is still not difficult to imagine a court awarding damages to someone who is publicly – but either without their permission or else incorrectly – said to be living with the condition.

It’s surely even more likely to result in damages when someone is, completely wrongly, identified in a caption with her photograph as “an HIV positive sex worker” waiting at a clinic to be attended.

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