Support the Uganda Harm Reduction Network in its fight against the proposed Uganda Sexual Offences Bill
Kofi Annan, the late former General Secretary of the United Nations, believed “that drugs have destroyed many lives, but wrong government policies have destroyed many more”. The Sexual Offences Act, 2021 enacted by the Parliament of Uganda on Monday, 3rd May 2021 and awaiting presidential assent, is a prime example of dangerous government policies towards people who use drugs.
According to the Uganda Harm Reduction Network, the proposed bill is “a step backward in the fight
against the HIV AIDS, because it is founded on stigma and discrimination and based on approaches that have been condemned by international health agencies as ineffective and violating the rights of people who use drugs living with and affected by HIV including; sex workers and sexual and gender minorities”.
As SANPUD, we support an evidence-based and health-centred approach to people who use drugs and this can be achieved through the removal of discriminatory, stigmatising, criminalising and harmful laws which promote bad policies and practices that increase vulnerability to HIV and continue to criminalise this already marginalised population.
In a recent, August 2020, article in The Africa Report the former Presidents of South Africa, Kgalema Motlanthe, and Nigeria, Olusegun Obasanjo, in their capacity as Commissioners of the Global Commission on Drug Policy refer to the need for “health-centred reforms that include harm reduction and treatment”. They argue that “evidence shows that these services are way more cost-effective than criminalisation, in Africa as on other continents”.
For Angela McBride, our SANPUD Director, with May as a month of a focus on Africa, “We cannot ignore the continued harm that will come to our brothers and sisters in Uganda who choose to use drugs, because of the Sexual Offences Act. These punitive policies, over and above undermining the human rights of this group of people, further hold us back in discussing better ways of decreasing HIV transmission and have levied a horrific human and financial cost on the continent.
We as SANPUD call upon all South Africans to use their voices on social media and other forums where they see an opportunity to urge the President of the Republic of Uganda to uphold the national and international laws that promote and enforce the human rights of ALL Ugandans by tasking the parliament to re-table and re-review the provisions of the Bill and recommend the consultation of binding laws of Uganda to avoid contradictions and human rights violations of their citizens.
We call upon all national and international Human Rights bodies, bilateral and multilateral agencies to speak against the Sexual Offence Bill, 2019 as it will affect the full realisation of rights of some groups of persons, and to advise the Parliament of Uganda on the spillover effect of harmful laws in the state-driven efforts to fight HIV and AIDS.
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