ZAMBIA AIDS Law Research and Advocacy Network (ZARAN) has called on the legal fraternity in Zambia to use their legal skills to defend the poor who have been adversely infected with the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
ZARAN board chairperson Eddie Mwitwa said the human rights of most Zambians, especially those living with HIV/AIDS, had be trampled upon, hence the need to engage lawyers in the fight against discrimination.
He said this yesterday during a ZARAN media breakfast in Lusaka where judges and lawyers discussed the role of the law and HIV-related litigation in promoting human rights.
“The human rights violations have been rampant in the recent past. We designed this meeting to provide lawyers and judges with information to enable them to litigate specific HIV-related claims in court,” Mr Mwitwa said.
In his presentation, ZARAN board member Kaumbu Mwondela said the legal fraternity was faced with a weak regulatory environment for protection, promotion and fulfillment of human rights for the infected and affected.
Mr Mwondela said Zambia, however, had challenges and opportunities such as the minimal provocation of Zambian jurisprudence meaning people were not challenging discrimination acts.
The rights based approach was necessary to protect the welfare of people living and affected by the pandemic.
The present regulatory framework presented challenges for rights protection, particularly economic, social and cultural rights.
“Hence, the legal practitioner is called upon to elevate his advocacy to mitigate the adverse impact of the epidemic as well as to hold Government and other actors accountable for failing to operate within accepted human rights norms,” he said.
Mr Mwondela said time had come for the legal fraternity to break the silence of discrimination by using their advocacy skills in discouraging inequalities among those affected by HIV in society.
ZARAN said currently there were 1.5 million Zambians living with HIV representing 19.7 pe rent of urban population where 16.1 per cent were women compared to 10.3 per cent in rural areas where men represented 12 per cent of those with the virus.
Law Association of Zambia (LAZ) HIV committee convener Kondwa Chibiya said the meeting gave an opportunity the judges and lawyers to reflect on their role in as far as helping the HIV affected people was concerned.
Mrs Chibiya said the meeting was a follow-up to two seminars that ZARAN hosted for lawyers in Lusaka and on the Copperbelt in 2008 and 2009 respectively.