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Gays and lesbians left out of AIDS policy: LAC

Monday, March 26, 2007
Brigitte Weidlich
The Namibian

THE National Policy on HIV-AIDS that was adopted in Parliament recently is a good document, a human rights lawyer says, but gay, lesbian, bisexual and transsexual people were left out.

"Once again, we see the retrogression of rights by the continued marginalisation of social groups, such as the gay and lesbian community," said Norman Tjombe, Director of the Legal Assistance Centre (LAC).

"In the previous drafts of the Policy, the LGBT community was recognised as a vulnerable community and tangible solutions were to be undertaken to ensure that AIDS and HIV is prevented and its impact is mitigated.

The removal of the LGBT community in the adopted draft now leaves a big gap in the policy framework, with the attendant negative consequences, such as the increased marginalisation and discrimination of community already facing severe legal and social obstacles," Tjombe said in a statement.

"The prohibition of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation has already been removed from the new Labour Act, and we should see an expected increase of discrimination, not only against the gay and lesbian community, but on all sorts of lifestyles which do fit the perceived traditional norms and standards.

"The mention of sexual orientation was in the draft [of the AIDS Policy] but as I see the final printed document it was removed," Tjombe told The Namibian.

"We assume this was done by the Health Ministry because homosexuality is actually still illegal in Namibia due to a old law from the apartheid period," the LAC Director explained.

Efforts to obtain comment from the Ministry were unsuccessful.

The Policy otherwise lays down a good framework and prioritises the spending of public moneys on preventing and mitigating the impact of HIV and AIDS in a far more drastic manner than ever before, the LAC said.

The Legal Assistance Centre was involved in the development of the policy.

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