NEWS RELEASE: MALAWI HIGH COURT DECLARES MANDATORY HIV TESTING UNCONSTITUTIONAL

Salc : Staff Writer

NEWS RELEASE: MALAWI HIGH COURT SAYS MANDATORY HIV TESTING VIOLATES CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS

Blantyre, 20 May 2015 – Today, Justice Dorothy nyaKaunda Kamanga, handed down judgment in the Blantyre High Court in a case in which eleven women sued the Mwanza Police and Mwanza District Hospital.

The applicants were arrested during police sweeping exercises in Mwanza in September and November 2009. On both occasions, a number of women were detained overnight at the Mwanza Police Station and subjected to forced HIV tests at the Mwanza District Hospital the following day. The women brought an application in the Blantyre High Court in 2011 alleging that these actions violated their constitutional rights.

Justice nyaKaunda Kamanga ruled that the action of subjecting the applicants to forced HIV testing was unreasonable and a violation of their rights to privacy, equality, dignity and freedom from cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. The applicants were represented by Chrispine Sibande and supported by the Southern Africa Litigation Centre and the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa.

“This case could not come at a more critical time,” says Chrispine Sibande. “The Malawi government is in the process of finalising the HIV and AIDS (Prevention and Management) Bill. Draft versions of the Bill have included provisions allowing mandatory HIV testing of various groups, including sex workers. It is internationally accepted that forced HIV testing is counter-productive and violates human rights. We hope the judgment will ensure that these provisions are finally removed from the Bill. The judgment is also progressive in that it considered equality between men and women in relation to HIV testing.”

According to Anneke Meerkotter from SALC, “the case, in recognising the right not to be subjected to mandatory HIV testing, sets an important precedent in protecting the rights of vulnerable groups who are often subjected to such practices, not only in Malawi, but in many countries across the world. The case is testimony to the courage of the applicants, who were willing to hold government accountable for the violation of their rights despite the personal risks they faced in asserting their rights.”

For more information

Chrispine Sibande, Lawyers for Human Rights; Tel: +265 999 888 900;

E-mail: chrispinsibande@gmail.com

Anneke Meerkotter, Litigation Director, Southern Africa Litigation Centre; Tel: +27 (0)10 596 8538;

E-mail: annekem@salc.org.za

For more information on the case, visit https://www.southernafricalitigationcentre.org/cases/ongoing-cases/malawi-mandatory-hiv-testing-of-alleged-sex-workers/ or follow twitter updates on @follow_salc