Gender/Violence Against Women/HIV/AIDS
By John Battersby, Christelle Terreblanche, Jillian Green and Themba wa
survivors will be able to demand that their suspected rapists be tested for HIV,
in terms of a law approved by the cabinet.
to the Compulsory HIV Testing of Alleged Sexual Offenders Bill, survivors of
sexual offences can apply for the alleged perpetrator to be tested for HIV and
the results disclosed to the survivor.
details of the legislation have not been revealed, a statement after Wednesday's
cabinet meeting said the bill provided a "speedy and uncomplicated
mechanism" for survivors of sexual offences to determine the HIV status of
their alleged attackers.
'It might prevent the victim from taking anti-retrovirals'
legal expert said that while the bill would be welcomed by women's advocacy
groups, it was likely to be controversial in terms of personal privacy
might be a problem if the HIV status is regarded as an aggravating factor in
sentencing," said the expert, who did not want to be named.
opposition parties across the spectrum have welcomed the announcement.
Kalyan, health spokesperson for the Democratic Alliance, said that in the past,
victims of sexual crimes had to apply to the court to obtain an order for the
perpetrator to be tested.
bill will entrench the right of assaulted victims for speedy treatment through
prophylaxis," she said.
head of parliament's committee on health, James Ngculu, said the bill could
"help victims to know their status and their need for treatment".
is a comprehensive approach to deal with crime and HIV/Aids," he added.
Freedom Party health spokesperson Ruth Rabinowitz said the bill was the
"brightest light that we have seen on the horizon yet, signalling a
constructive government approach to HIV/Aids".
should generally promote testing more, because that would help us to roll back
denial of HIV/Aids," she said.
Gous of the New National Party said the NNP had called for such a measure almost
two years ago.
are very happy, because now people will know whether to use preventive
medicine," he said.
Opposing Women Abuse spokesperson Kelly Hatfield said her organisation had for a
long time tried to draw the focus onto the survivor of rape.
move made to put the survivor in a more empowered position is welcomed,"
added that when a person was raped, it was an infringement of their rights, and
"compulsory HIV testing for the perpetrators will put them in a position of
difficulty, rather than placing the stigma on the victim".
South Africa chairperson Joan van Niekerk said that while the bill enforced a
rape survivor's right to information and to know the HIV status of the offender,
testing of the offender might happen too late to be of any real assistance to
disadvantage of the bill would be that if the offender's tests are negative, it
might prevent the victim from taking anti-retrovirals. The offender could be in
the window period - in which infection is not yet apparent - and thus test
negative," she said.
added that, whether the perpetrator was tested or not, the survivor should take
anti-retroviral drugs within 72 hours.
Consortium advocacy officer Sharon Ekambarum applauded the law, adding that more
energy should be channelled into the prevention of woman abuse.
rape survivor's rights have been violated and she has to receive post-exposure
prophylaxis within 72 hours after the vile act," she said.