HIV-Aids to be added to prohibited grounds for discrimination

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Millions of people living with HIV-Aids will finally have access to South Africa’s Equality Courts to fight stigmatisation and discrimination on the basis of being infected with the virus, says a Sowetan report. The government is adding HIV-Aids to the list of prohibited grounds for discrimination as current legislation is often not able to provide viable recourse for people living with the virus.

Currently, race, gender, sex, pregnancy, marital status, ethnic or social origin, colour, sexual orientation, age, disability, religion, conscience, belief, culture, language and birth are the only grounds listed in the constitution as prohibited grounds for discrimination.

According to the report, the Justice Department said the inclusion of HIV-Aids status would result in greater access to Equality Courts as claimants would only have to prove that there was discrimination on the basis of their status. A new law outlawing discrimination against people living with HIV, actual or presumed, has been released by the government for public comment.

The introduction of the Judicial Matters Amendment Bill would assist in developing a human rights approach in accordance with international precedents, according to the department. The SA National Aids Council’s Kanya Ndaki is quoted in the report as saying that they had an agreement with Legal Aid SA to provide services to people who had been discriminated against because of their HIV status. Last year, Legal Aid SA launched its national legal assistance programme for people discriminated against on the basis of having HIV-Aids or tuberculosis (TB) and partnered with law firm Webber Wentzel, NGO Section27 and the International Labour Organisation. It has trained paralegals and civil litigation specialists to respond to HIV-Aids and TB-related discrimination.

Ayanda Ngubo, a partner in Webber Wentzel’s pro bono unit, said there was no obligation on employees in any workplace to disclose their HIV status. She said discrimination based on people’s HIV status was prevalent across all industries and the programme has had many domestic workers complaining about discrimination on the basis of their HIV status. “It’s mainly small, medium and micro-sized enterprises where workers are not unionised and that’s where there is a lot of discrimination,” said Ngubo, adding that big companies were also not immune to discriminatory practices.

Full Sowetan report

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