In Namibia, for IDAHOT 2014, HIV/AIDS organisations called out for protection and advancement of Freedom of Expression for LGBTI people in order to address the HIV/AIDS pandemic in the country.
The AIDS and Rights Alliance for Southern Africa (ARASA) in Windhoek, Namibia, sent out a press release on May 16 in commemoration of the IDAHOT, to ask Southern African governments to respect and protect the right to Freedom of Expression of LGBTI people to effectively address the spread of HIV.
“The right to freedom of expression is crucial for the HIV response because it provides protection for human rights activists, LGBTI and other civil society organisations who disseminate information on HIV prevention and provide HIV-related services to LGBTI people living in countries, which criminalise adult same sex sexual intercourse,” explained Michaela Clayton, Director of ARASA.
“Unfortunately, the lives of most LGBTI people and their allies in this region are characterised by threats, harassment, extortion, violence and prosecution, for talking about sexual orientation or gender identity issues or for expressing their sexual orientation and gender identities,” she added.
In the press release ARASA highlights the fact that the right to Freedom of Expression is guaranteed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights as well as the Constitutions of most countries in the region but that the real situation for LGBTI people in sub-Saharan Africa, where the HIV epidemic is very strong, this right is under attack in many ways.
As an example for these attacks, the case of Paul Kasonkomona is mentioned. Kasonkomana was arrested last year in Zambia for openly speaking out for the rights of LGBTI people in order to comprehensively address HIV. The statement also addresses the Anti-Homosexuality Acts that have been put in place in Uganda and Nigeria which aside from increasing acts of violence against LGBTI people also puts NGOs who provide services HIV related and other support to LGBTI at risk.
“The right to freedom of expression is important on its own, but even more so because it is essential for the realization of other human rights. Clearly these draconian laws are meant to limit people’s ability to associate and access information, which will enable them to make critical health and other life choices,” said Clayton.
“We implore that governments protect the right to freedom of expression so that all NGOs and citizens can speak their minds freely and access information without fear of subjugation,” she added.