By Mercy Nalugo
Ugandan Lawmakers 13 July resisted pressure from the human rights defenders and backed the new HIV /Aids Prevention and Control Bill that seeks to criminalise the intentional spread of HIV/Aids.
Briefing the new members on the Parliamentary HIV/Aids committee about their expectations, work plan and how far the eighth Parliament had gone with scrutinising the controversial Bill, the new committee chairperson, Ms Rosemary Najjemba Muyinda (NRM, Gomba) said most of the controversial clauses in the Bill were dropped.
"The Bill is now in its advanced stages since it was discussed by our colleagues in the eighth Parliament. So many stakeholders have been consulted and all the contentious issues were dropped. The Bill once passed into law will protect those without HIV from being infected. We have to take the Bill forward," Ms Najjemba said.She said the principles in the Bill were agreeable to the committee members since they are aimed at combating the intentional spread of HIV/Aids.
"For example why should someone infect the other with aids intentionally? That is a crime that should not go unpunished," she said.The controversial Bill that hands down a 10 year penalty in jail to individuals that knowingly infect others with the deadly aids disease has faced a lot of criticism from the human rights defenders both local and international.
They argue that the Bill violates human rights and threatens the progress the country has so far attained in fighting HIV/Aids as it legislates for mandatory testing for HIV and forced disclosure of HIV status.
Some of the human rights defenders against the Bill include Action Aid International, Uganda Global AIDS Alliance, United States, the Global Forum on MSM & HIV United States, Global Coalition of Women against AIDS in Uganda, Uganda Network of AIDS Service Organisation (UNASO) and Uganda Young Positives among others.
Also in the Bill, Women who transmit HIV to their infants after birth through breast milk would also be subject to criminal prosecution. The activists concern is that it would be difficult, if not impossible, to determine who infected the other in courts of law hence making ignorance of one's status an effective defence.
During yesterday's meeting, the former HIV/Aids committee chairperson, Ms Beatrice Rwakimari officially handed over the committee to the incoming chairperson and urged her to steer through the committee proceedings to ensure that the Bill is passed into law.
"The Bill was a private members initiative and I would like to urge the committee members to take it over so that we move forward.Mostof the controversial issues were harmonized and sustainability of the aids funding should be maintained for the law to become applicable," she said.Kitgum County MP, Ms Beatrice Anywar said the law to criminalize the intentional spread of aids has been long overdue.
"All we need now is to bring new members on board to make them understand the clauses so that we make the final amendments.Jackie Amongin (Ngora Women) however expressed some reservations about the Bill and said issues regarding aids are sensitive and should be handled with caution.