Raising awareness and accountability among judges on human rights issues linked to HIV, TB, malaria, and other health responses can be a key entry point to influence laws and policies.
Sensitizing and capacity strengthening interventions for judges on scientific, medical and human rights issues and judicial precedents affecting key and vulnerable populations in the context of health supports strategic litigation and progressive and protective judgements based on the most up-to-date evidence.
Activities might include:
In Africa, the Regional Judges Forum, supported by UNDP Regional Service for Africa, brings together members of the judiciary from countries across Africa to meet and discuss HIV and TB law and human rights issues in the region. The Judges Forum provides an opportunity for judges to hear expert medical, scientific and legal evidence on matters relating to HIV, TB and the law as well as to hear about the impact of the law directly from key populations, including sex workers, gay and bisexual men and men who have sex with men, transgender people, women and girls and prisoners on sexual and reproductive health and rights.
The judiciary discuss landmark judgements affecting the rights of people in the context of HIV and TB and share experiences and insights. Members of the Regional Judges Forum are increasingly knowledgeable and sensitized on matters relating to HIV, TB, law and human rights and have presided over precedent-setting judgements in the region. For example, they have acted as resource persons to train paralegal staff and clerks in courts in Kenya. Some of the Forum members were part of the High Court of Kenya that ruled as unconstitutional the criminalization of HIV transmission in law. In Botswana a member of the Forum was part of a ruling that entitled HIV treatment to foreign prisoners.
The judges have also participated in sensitizing their peers to health and human rights issues and supported the institutionalization of training on HIV, SRHR, TB and human rights within judicial training curricula across Africa. This approach has led to the development of a core group of committed judges determined to sustain judicial excellence on health and human rights issues in the years ahead.
Sensitizing law makers and law enforcers helps to strengthen protection for health and human rights.
Sensitization and capacity strengthening interventions are critical enablers that aim to sensitize parliamentarians to the importance of rights-based laws and policies, support strategic litigation by informed lawyers and improve law enforcement by the police.
Ensuring appropriate law enforcement practices protects vulnerable and key populations from abuse, harassment, illegal detention, involuntary testing, denial of health care, confiscation of needles, syringes and condoms. This improves their ability to access services and protect their health.
Recommended programmatic activities include:
There is mounting evidence that an overly broad use of the criminal law and of similarly coercive and punitive measures in relation to HIV and other infectious diseases, is not effective public health policy, and in fact can do more harm than good. As part of efforts to work with governments and other stakeholders to remove legal and structural barriers to effective HIV responses, in line with recommendations from the Global Commission on HIV and the Law, UNDP developed a Guidance for Prosecutors on HIV-Related Criminal Cases.
This Guidance is addressed specifically to prosecutors, given the essential role they play in limiting the misuse of criminal law by discharging their professional obligations with full regard to science, human rights and the public interest. The Guidance presents 10 key principles that should assist prosecutors in handling a prosecution – or potential prosecution – involving an allegation of HIV non-disclosure, exposure or transmission. Each principle is accompanied by a more detailed commentary examining the specific application of the principle by prosecutors during their handling of a potential or ongoing prosecution. It is also intended as a resource for lawmakers who legislate, judges who interpret laws and adjudicate these cases, public defenders and defence lawyers who represent those charged under these laws, and people living with HIV who bear the brunt of HIV criminalisation.
In Thailand, police training has been implemented through a partnership between the Royal Thai Police, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Public Health, Foundation for AIDS Rights and UNDP. Since 2013, the Innovative Learning Programme on HIV and Human Rights in the Context of Law Enforcement has sensitized police to issues concerning human rights, people living with HIV and key populations.
Review of Country Progress in Addressing Legal and Policy Barriers to Universal Access to HIV services in Asia and the Pacific
COVID-19 has resulted in reports of increased stigma, discrimination and rights violations, including gender-based violence, against key and vulnerable populations, particularly during lockdown. At the same time, harsh law enforcement practices have also been reported, often targeting key and vulnerable populations such as men who have sex with men, sex workers and people who use drugs.
Current and ongoing efforts to sensitize law enforcers, including on information platforms where physical interaction is not possible, should include:
Learn more: Global Fund (2020) COVID-19 Guidance Note: Human Rights in the Time of COVID-19
Together, national human rights institutions and four civil society organisations – Alliance LGBT, Pro LGBT, PINK Embassy and OMSA – have influenced law and policy to promote human rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex populations in Albania.
A strong partnership between civil society organisations advocating and lobbying for protective laws and policies, and statutory institutions such as the People’s Advocate, the Albanian Ombudsperson and the Commissioner for Protection from Discrimination, has helped to increase awareness of the discrimination faced by LGBTI populations in Albania and sensitize political leaders to the need for protections in law and policy.
The People’s Advocate’s subsequent report and recommendations on strengthening the legal and regulatory framework for LGBTI persons in Albania was considered and referred to by a Parliamentary Sub-Commission on Human Rights. In May 2015, this ultimately led to the Albanian Parliament approving a resolution “On the protection of the fundamental rights and freedoms of LGBTI community”, which amongst other things:
Learn more: Being LGBTI in Eastern Europe
COVID-19 Law Lab Database of legal documents from the COVID-19 responseWebsite