Posts Tagged ‘Stigmatisierung’

Mexiko: Zu wenig Abtreibungskliniken

Freitag, Juni 25th, 2010

“Extending the Reach of Safe Abortion

By Daniela Pastrana

MEXICO CITY – By 5:00 AM, dozens of women are already lined up outside of this clinic in the Mexican capital. Most come with their mothers, sisters, husbands, friends or boyfriends. A few show up alone.

Sitting on the sidewalk, the women and the people accompanying them try to catch a few winks, in spite of the cold, before dawn breaks and numbers are handed out to the lucky ones. Only the first 30 will be seen today. The rest will have to come back another day.

There are 15 public hospitals in the federal district of the capital that offer safe, legal abortions, but the Beatriz Velasco Reproductive Health Clinic has carried out one-quarter of such procedures since first trimester abortion was legalised by the Mexico City legislature in April 2007.

‘The men are great at bringing them here, but not at taking responsibility for supporting their children,’ a mother accompanying her young daughter before dawn remarks to IPS.

Standing behind her in the queue, an office worker says this is the third time she’s tried to get a turn, and that no one in her family or at her job knows she’s pregnant.

‘No matter what they say, there’s still a lot of prejudice, and they do stigmatise you,’ says the young woman.

‘We already have two kids, and this year we both lost our jobs, so I just don’t see any other option,’ another woman, whose husband’s arm is around her shoulders, says brusquely.

In the last three years, some 65,000 women have visited public health facilities to find out about abortions, and 40,000 have undergone the procedure, the Mexico City health secretariat reported this month.

Of that total, 1,200, or three percent of the cases, came from outside the greater Mexico City area from other states.

Nearly half of these, 550, were able to travel to the capital to get a safe, legal abortion over the last year thanks to the support of a group of young women who work in the Fondo de Aborto para la Justicia Social MARÍA (MARÍA Abortion Fund for Social Justice).

MARÍA (the group’s acronym for Women, Abortion, Reproduction, Information and Accompaniment) was founded in May 2009 to provide information, support and financial assistance to women outside greater Mexico City who want an abortion.

‘The aim is to get the Federal District law to reach out farther,’ Oriana López, director of operations of MARÍA, told IPS.

MARÍA forms part of the National Network of Abortion Funds, an umbrella group for local abortion funds mainly in the United States, and receives financing from Mexican reproductive health groups.

Since December it has also been building a network of individual donors, who now number just over 200, that has helped give the project financial stability. The organisation has even set up a PayPal account for donations.

The aim of the group now is to give some training to the people who accompany the women to get an abortion, who presently provide ‘basically logistical support.’

‘The concept that this is a right is still very weak,’ said López. ‘Women feel it, more than they actually understand it; it’s like there’s a discrepancy between what they believe and what is right, and what they’ve been told.’

According to the Mexico City government, which has been in the hands of the left-wing Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) since 1997, 83 percent of the abortions that have been carried out were medically induced using abortifacient drugs, 12 percent were performed using vacuum aspiration, and five percent were done by dilation and curettage.

The law legalising abortion in the capital triggered a wave of legal counter-reforms pushed by the most conservative sectors of society in Mexico, led by the local Catholic Church hierarchy and right-wing political leaders, which tightened already strict state legislation against abortion.

As a result, in 18 of Mexico’s 31 states, abortion is now illegal even when the mother’s life is at risk, in cases of rape or incest, or in cases of fetal malformation.

On May 27, the Supreme Court upheld a law that makes it obligatory for all health centres to offer rape victims emergency contraception, also known as the ‘morning-after pill’, in response to a legal challenge brought by the right-wing governor of the state of Jalisco, Emilio González.

Católicas por el Derecho a Decidir — a partner of the U.S.-based group Catholics for Choice — launched the campaign ‘Otra mirada católica del aborto’ (roughly, ‘a different Catholic approach to abortion’) on May 31, using billboards and radio spots.

Most of the women who turn to the MARÍA Fund for help come from the states of Jalisco, México, Puebla, Veracruz and Oaxaca, in central and southern Mexico.

‘We can’t directly air ads in the states, because we would be inviting people to do something that is illegal in some of them,’ López explained. ‘But we have created networks with different organisations and are finding allies in the media.’

Women contact the group either by email, a form that can be filled out on the MARÍA Fund’s web site, or a toll-free telephone number.

‘The telephone is best for us, because that way we can talk to the women,’ she said.

‘We don’t just assume from the start that they want to end their pregnancies,’ said the activist, who explained that they offer the women psychological and even spiritual support, in alliance with other organisations, like Católicas por el Derecho a Decidir.

If the pregnant woman decides she wants to abort, she goes to the capital the day before the procedure is scheduled and housed in a hotel near the clinic.

Private clinics are used in special cases, such as for rape victims who require psychological help, or for women who simply cannot miss work, as the public hospitals and clinics only perform abortions on week-days.

According to the National Population Council, a government agency, abortion is the third leading cause of maternal death in Mexico.

Most abortion-related deaths occur among poor, young women, the Grupo de Información en Reproducción Elegida (GIRE – Information Group on Reproductive Choice) reports.

Of the women who have undergone an abortion in the federal district, more than 2,000, or 5.5 percent of the total, were girls or adolescents, and around 300 were under 14.

The MARÍA Fund has supported about 60 minors under 18, although 20 is the average age of the women who turn to the group for help.

‘It’s a tough job, because you hear stories that are sometimes really hard to listen to, and you have to be able to detach, because you’re not helping someone if you get sucked down into the mud with them,’ López said.

‘The aim of the Fund is not to be a welfare-kind of support system, but to provide women with the tools they need to take responsibility for their bodies and their lives, and to help them understand that they are receiving support for exercising a right, not a favour,’ she said. “

(Quelle: IPS News.)

Indonesien: Schwangeren Teens drohen Isolation und Tod

Donnerstag, Juni 10th, 2010

“Pregnant Teens Still Face Stigma, Isolation, Even Death

By Titania Veda

‘My parents told me to stay here until the baby was born,’ says Diana, not her real name. ‘I wanted an abortion, but when I found out it was already too late. There was already a heartbeat.’

Beneath her pale yellow pajamas, Diana’s breasts, exceptionally large for her awkward 13-year-old frame, outsize her five-month-old baby bump. Her heart-shaped face has sprinklings of acne and she rarely shows her buck-toothed smile.

Raped by her neighbor last year, she was placed in a women’s shelter in West Jakarta by her family as soon as her pregnancy was discovered in April. To avoid rumors and the social stigma surrounding teenage pregnancy, Diana’s family plans to wait a year or two year before bringing the baby back home to raise it within the family.

Despite her traumatic experience, Diana can be considered one of the lucky few because she has made it to a shelter. While there has been a slight increase in sex education and campaigns to prevent teen pregnancies in recent years, there remains a dire need for reproductive health assistance for unmarried pregnant teens.

Limited Data, Limited Services

‘Assistance for teen pregnancies outside of marriage is very poor because society has already declared it to be illegal and forbidden,’ says Hadi Supeno, chairman of the Indonesian Commission for Child Protection (KPAI).

There are an estimated 40 million adolescents in Indonesia aged from 10 to 19, according to the Ministry of Health. Recent surveys have pointed to increased sexual activity among young people, although specific and reliable data on teenage sex and pregnancy is hard to come by.

The communication and information technology minister, Tifatul Sembiring, recently publicized a poll supposedly conducted by the KPAI in 2007 involving 4,500 teenagers in 12 cities aged 14-18. Although there are serious doubts over the veracity of the data, Tifatul said the survey showed that 62.7 percent had engaged in sexual intercourse and 21.2 percent of girls had had an abortion.

‘The KPAI survey is only an indication of the behavior of our young people,’ says Dr. Melania Hidayat, national program officer for reproductive health at the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). ‘Local clinics are the main source for data, and they are very unlikely to have accurate figures.’

Perhaps partly as a result of this lack of data, which could hide the extent of the problem, health services for unmarried teenagers who fall pregnant are very limited. Moreover, what few services are available are not easily accessible due to limited health coverage in rural areas, cultural barriers or lack of supporting government policy.

For instance, in 2003, the Health Ministry began the Adolescent Friendly Health Services approach in community health centers, or puskesmas. The AFHS, an affordable youth-friendly service that stresses confidentiality and sensitivity, provides sexual education information to teenagers. However, it is only available in 26 provinces at 1,611 centers — or about 20 percent of all clinics across the country — most of them in urban areas.

Nongovernmental organizations such as the Indonesian Family Planning Association (PKBI) and the Pelita Ilmu Foundation (YPI), which campaigns against HIV/AIDS, also offer counseling for pregnant teens, although it is not a free service. An hour-long session with a counselor costs about Rp 50,000 ($5.45).

Preferred Option: Abortion

Of the three logical options open to pregnant teens — keeping the child, which involves living with the stigma that comes with it; putting the baby up for adoption; or going through an abortion, which is illegal except in certain circumstances — the last one appears to be the most preferred.

According to a 2009 survey by the National Development Planning Agency (Bappenas), more than two million abortions are performed every year, with 30 percent involving teenagers. But experts say that if illegal abortions were included, that figure would more than double.

‘Abortion is illegal, but what else can you do with an unwanted child?’ says Dr. Firman Lubis, chairman of the Kusuma Buana Foundation (YKB), an NGO focused on health and community building.

Abortion is legal when the mother’s life is in danger and, as of last year, under the recently passed Health Law, when the mother is a rape victim, such as Diana.

Most groups counseling pregnant teens who wish to have an abortion refer them to places such as the ‘Raden Saleh Clinics’ in Central Jakarta, which is a handful of facilities known for providing abortion services. But because the new Health Law is yet to be fully implemented, clinics such as in Raden Saleh often fall foul of law enforcement authorities.

Even at these clinics, the process of scheduling an abortion requires the pregnant teen to bring her husband as well as proof of marriage. Those who are unmarried are required to bring a copy of their family identity card and a family member.

But having a family member at hand does not provide an environment that encourages a pregnant teen to openly seek help. Shame, fear of reprimand from parents or health staff and the presence of traditional religious and conservative norms make it difficult.

As a result, many teens try their own methods for abortion.

‘Their friends will tell them to eat unripe pineapples or jamu [traditional medicine],’ says Ninuk Widyantoro, a psychologist and chair of the Women’s Health Foundation (YKP). ‘They don’t know where to go for an abortion, or else they just can’t afford it.’

Firman estimates that unsafe abortions account for about 15 percent of Indonesia’s maternal mortality rate — one of the highest in Asia, with 228 mothers dying for every 100,000 births.

Overlooked Option: Adoption

There is, of course, the adoption option, which would require pregnant teenagers to go through the full pregnancy cycle — nine difficult months that would be hard to hide from their family, friends and curious neighbors, unless she finds a shelter to stay in.

In Diana’s case, she found her shelter, which doubles as an orphanage, through word of mouth. Though the shelter has assisted more than 80 pregnant women in the last nine years, only a handful were unmarried teens, according to Yohana, an administrator at the shelter.

The reason, Yohana says, is that many teenagers are unaware such shelters exist.

‘I didn’t know that there were other options,’ says Cita, not her real name. ‘I only know of orphanages but not shelters for pregnant women who want to give up their babies. My only options were either to abort or keep the baby.’

Cita, who comes from a devoutly Muslim family, was unmarried and in her early 20s when she became pregnant. She was finishing her university thesis at the time and was planning to continue with her master’s degree overseas. After a failed attempt to abort the fetus using oral medication, she decided to keep the baby.

Another reason for the lack of awareness about the shelters is because there are not many around.

Such shelters are expensive to run, says Inne Silviane, executive director for the PKBI. ‘They’re expensive because from pregnancy until birth, we have to feed the mothers and provide them with good nutrition,’ she says.

To support a teen through a full term of pregnancy, including checkups, daily meals and birthing, can cost a shelter up to Rp 17 million.

Social Stigma

Perhaps the core of this problem is the social stigma attached to unwanted teen pregnancies.

The AFHS program for puskesmas, for instance, is underutilized. AFHS health centers log less than three visits per day, according to a 2009 study conducted by the Peduli Perempuan (Care for Women) network that consists of NGOs dealing with gender, sexuality and reproductive health in rural areas.

At the YPI’s youth clinic in South Jakarta, a family member must accompany teens seeking counseling. ‘They need someone who can support them, because their condition is very unstable,’ said Usep Solehudin, a YPI program manager. But he admits very few pregnant teens approach the YPI.

Counseling before and after abortion is often required by clinics. But as long as society is reluctant to approach sex education openly, let alone teen pregnancy, counseling will not help, according to the KPAI’s Hadi.

‘Families are still confused, running scared and ashamed. They feel disgraced,’ he says. ‘Pregnant teens attending schools are taken out. Those teens are going through physical changes in puberty, while also experiencing alienation from their community and schools. So it’s a big burden.’

Ida Wulan, assistant deputy for women’s health at the State Ministry for Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection, says parents are often reluctant to talk to their children about sex, leading to further isolation for teenagers. ‘If asked by their children, parents will just say it’s taboo,’ she says.

For young people to open up about their problems, confidentiality from health service providers is essential, says Julie Rostina, a reproductive health consultant at the Peduli Perempuan network. ‘Confidentiality is needed so the client can talk openly and allow health service providers to make the proper diagnosis and take the right action,’ she says.

Focus on Prevention

Most organizations such as the PKBI focus more on prevention than assistance. ‘We still help those who are already pregnant,’ says the PKBI’s Inne, although making it clear that the PKBI mainly counsels married couples who experience unintended or unwanted pregnancies.

Inne says dealing with unmarried teens involves strict conditions imposed by the government, particularly requiring parents to attend the counseling sessions.

The PKBI is allowed to provide abortions by trained medical staff, but only within 10 weeks of conception and with parental consent.

‘Unmarried teenagers who become pregnant in Indonesia face a very bleak situation,’ says the KPAI’s Hadi. ‘The mind-set here is that it’s something contemptible, that the teens don’t deserve assistance. They’re outside the system.’

While the 1992 Health Law makes no references to adolescent health, the new Health Law, issued in October 2009, includes a chapter on adolescent health, stipulating the government’s obligation to ensure young people are able to obtain education, information and services on adolescent health.

But experts such as Hadi are skeptical that the law will ever be fully implemented at the operational level. ‘The new law is good for education and information,’ but lacks service terms, he says.

The government, Hadi goes on, will not stir controversy by offending religious and conservative groups.

According to Wahyu Hartomo, assistant to the deputy director for child protection at the women’s empowerment ministry, the government aims to strengthen family values.

‘We’re holding on to our religious values, so pregnant teens have to go to an illegal doctor or dukun [shaman],’ he says. ‘The government doesn’t provide assistance.’

With or without reinforcement from the government, the reluctance to be open about sex education persists. And parents are not the only ones guilty of it. Diana, who considers her pregnancy an accident, says: ‘I don’t think it’s important for kids my age to know about sex, because it’s not appropriate for them.’”

(Quelle: The Jakarta Globe.)

Kolumbien: Kampagne für die Menschenrechte

Dienstag, Mai 25th, 2010

“Während in aktuellen Umfragen überraschend der Kandidat der Grünen Partei für die Präsidentschaftswahlen am 30. Mai 2010, Antanas Mockus, voran liegt, fällt die kolumbianische Regierung weiterhin durch menschenrechtliche und demokratiepolitische Skandale auf. Nun wurde eine internationale Kampagne ins Leben gerufen, die die prekäre Lage der MenschenrechtsverteidigerInnen in Kolumbien thematisiert.

Verteidigung der Menschenrechte in Kolumbien

Die Erfolge der militärischen Strategie gegen die FARC-Guerilla im Namen der Politik der „demokratischen Sicherheit‟ von Präsident Uribe verblassen angesichts der kontinuierlichen Missachtung der Menschenrechte und der Demokratie durch staatliche Institutionen: die engen Verbindungen der Uribe nahestehenden Parteien zu den – trotz offiziell erklärter „Demobilisierung‟ – nach wie vor aktiven Paramilitärs; die Einschüchterung und Bedrohung der Wählerschaft bei den vergangenen Kongresswahlen; der Skandal um die „Falsos Positivos‟ – die Ermordung von ZivilistInnen durch das Militär, um die Quote im Anti-Guerilla-Kampf zu verbessern; eine Bespitzelungsaffäre und aktuell das Bekanntwerden einer Initiative des kolumbianischen Geheimdienstes zur Diffamierung der Menschenrechtsbewegung auf internationaler Ebene. Juan Manuel Santos, der Wunschkandidat von Präsident Uribe für dessen Nachfolge – nachdem Uribe selbst verfassungsmäßig kein drittes Mal mehr antreten darf – gerät zunehmend in die Kritik, da der Skandal um die „Falsos Positivos‟ in seine Amtszeit als Verteidigungsminister fällt.

Das Engagement für die Menschenrechte birgt in Kolumbien seit jeher Risiken für Leben und Gesundheit – in letzter Zeit wird außerdem deutlich, dass die Regierung gewillt ist, ein solches Engagement verstärkt mit dem Strafrecht zu verfolgen und damit zu erschweren. Neben den Drohungen und Angriffen durch paramilitärische Terrorgruppen wurde jetzt bekannt, dass der direkt dem Präsidenten unterstehende Inlandsgeheimdienst DAS jahrelang die Aktivitäten von Menschenrechtsorganisationen, Anwaltskanzleien, JournalistInnen und RichterInnen überwachte – mit dem Ziel, deren Arbeit zu behindern. Nach Informationen der kolumbianischen Wochenzeitung Semana hatte die „Operation Amazonas‘ des DAS zum Ziel, den Einfluss von Oppositionellen zu „neutralisieren‟, die auf internationaler Ebene die prekäre Lage der Menschenrechte verurteilen. Zu diesem Zweck wurden bereits seit 2006 PolitikerInnen, JournalistInnen und MenschenrechtsverteidigerInnen der Zusammenarbeit mit den kolumbianischen Guerilla-Organisationen beschuldigt. Ins Visier des DAS war u.a. auch der Interamerikanische Menschenrechtsgerichtshof gekommen, dem insbesondere dann eine wichtige Rolle zukommt, wenn die Justiz innerhalb eines Landes korrupt ist oder aus anderen Gründen bei Menschenrechtsfällen versagt. Mit den Überwachungsaktionen durch den DAS sollte für einen „Prestigeverlust‘ des Gerichtes gesorgt werden. Die Bespitzelungen reichten dabei sogar bis nach Europa, so wurde ein Büro des DAS in Europa eröffnet, das die Aktivitäten von „Regierungsfeinden‟ beobachten und dokumentieren sollte – u.a. wurde auf diesem Weg versucht, Einfluss auf den Menschenrechtsausschuss des Europäischen Parlamentes zu nehmen (taz, 27.04.2010).

Die kolumbianischen MenschenrechtsverteidigerInnen werden seit einigen Jahren verstärkt mit Gerichtsprozessen betraut, bei denen hohe Haftstrafen im Raum stehen, da sie in der Regel beschuldigt werden, mit der Guerilla zusammenzuarbeiten. Zwar enden die Prozesse überwiegend mit Freisprüchen, doch ist der Schaden trotzdem enorm, denn erstens bedeuten allein die Anklagen einen Imageverlust und zweitens binden sie einen Großteil der Energien, die ansonsten für die Menschenrechtsarbeit eingesetzt werden könnte. Hinzu kommt, dass diese Prozesse von einer Staatsanwaltschaft geleitet werden, die ihren Sitz in Militäreinrichtungen hat, weshalb ihr wohl kaum Unabhängigkeit bescheinigt werden kann, zumal es häufig Militärangehörige sind, die ins Visier der Kritik der Menschenrechtsbewegung geraten. Auch kommt es häufig zu Unregelmäßigkeiten und Widersprüchen bei den Prozessen, so kommt die US-amerikanische Organisation Human Rights First „zu dem Schluss, dass immer wieder Zeugen auftreten, die als demobilisierte ehemalige Kämpfer illegaler Gruppen Vergünstigungen für ihre Aussagen erhalten und sich vielfach in Widersprüche verstricken oder die Angeklagten gar nicht identifizieren können‟. (

Die Kampagne

Vor diesem Hintergrund wurde am 14. April 2010 in Berlin die Kampagne „Für das Recht auf die Verteidigung der Menschenrechte in Kolumbien‟ von dem kolumbianischen Rechtsanwalt Alirio Uribe und dem Verein kolko vorgestellt. Bislang haben 300 Organisationen aus 23 Ländern die Empfehlungen der Kampagne unterzeichnet. (

Anwalt Uribe berichtete auf einer Pressekonferenz über die dramatische Situation, in der sich MenschenrechtsverteidigerInnen in Kolumbien befinden: „In den letzten Jahren gab es mehr als 70 Angriffe und Drohungen gegen unser Anwaltskollektiv, man hat sogar Personen mit bewaffneten Fahrzeugen attackiert. Einer Anwältin unseres Büros hat man eine enthauptete, blutbefleckte Puppe geschickt, mit der Drohung, ihre Tochter zu töten. Heute haben wir festgestellt, dass hinter all dem der Geheimdienst steckte.‟ Und weiter Alirio Uribe: „Wenn wir jetzt eine Kampagne zu unserer eigenen Verteidigung führen müssen, zeigt das, wie schwierig die Lage ist‟. (,,5469162.html)

Die Eckpunkte der an die kolumbianische Regierung gerichteten Empfehlungen der Kampagne sind:

• Beendigung der Straflosigkeit bei Gewalt gegen MenschenrechtsverteidigerInnen: Untersuchung aller Fälle von Verfolgung und Gewalt gegen VerteidigerInnen der Menschenrechte und ihrer Angehörigen; Verhandlung dieser Fälle vor einem zivilen und keinem Militärgericht; Abzug der Staatsanwaltschaft aus den Militärstützpunkten.

• Beendigung von Missbrauch durch staatliche Geheimdienste: Transparenz der gesammelten Geheimdienstinformationen; keine Überwachung aufgrund von legitimen Menschenrechtsaktivitäten; staatliche Überprüfung der Geheimdienstberichte; Ermittlungen gegen die für illegale Abhörmaßnahmen verantwortlichen BeamtInnen.

• Beendigung der systematischen Stigmatisierung: öffentliche Anerkennung der Bedeutung der Menschenrechtsarbeit durch die Regierung und Beendigung der Diskreditierung und Angriffe; Disziplinarstrafen gegen BeamtInnen, die die Menschenrechte verletzen sowie präventive Fortbildung.

• Beendigung unbegründeter strafrechtlicher Verfolgung: Einrichtung einer koordinierenden Sonderabteilung bei der Staatsanwaltschaft, die die rechtsstaatlichen Standards der Ermittlungen gegen MenschenrechtsverteidigerInnen überprüft und die Verfahren gegebenenfalls einstellt; strafrechtliche Konsequenzen für StaatsanwältInnen und andere BeamtInnen, die illegale Ermittlungen anstellten; Zurückweisung von unglaubwürdigen ZeugInnen, etwa ehemaligen KombatantInnen.

• Strukturelle Verbesserung des Schutzprogramms für gefährdete Personen: Überprüfung des Schutzprogramms in direkter Absprache mit den Betroffenen; eigene Abteilung im Justiz- und Innenministerium; die Garantie, dass LeibwächterInnen oder FahrerInnen keine Beziehungen zu den bewaffneten Gruppen unterhalten; sofortiger und zeitweiliger Schutz für Einzelpersonen und Organisationen bis deren Sicherheitslage geprüft ist; keine Beauftragung von privaten Sicherheitsdiensten mit dem Schutz von gefährdeten Personen; ausreichende finanzielle Mittel für die Sicherheitsmaßnahmen. (

Beitrag bearbeitet von Alexander Stoff, 12.5.2010


(Quelle: OneWorld News.)

Malawi: UN protestiert gegen Verurteilung homosexuellen Paares

Freitag, Mai 21st, 2010

“Malawi: UN Rights Chief Sounds Alarm On Sentencing of Gay Couple

The sentencing of a gay couple in Malawi to 14 years in prison is ‘blatantly discriminatory,’ the top United Nations human rights official said today, voicing concern over the precedent that this could set in the region.

‘I am shocked and dismayed by the sentence and reports of the treatment of Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga while in detention,’ High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said in a press release, calling for the repeal of their convictions and for penal codes criminalizing homosexuality to be reformed.

‘The law which enabled the conviction dates back to the colonial era and has lain dormant for a number of years – rightly so, because it is discriminatory and has the effect of criminalizing and stigmatizing people based on perceptions of their identity,’ she added.

Ms. Pillay cautioned that if this were to be replicated around the world, millions of people in consensual relationships would be criminalized and their privacy trampled on.

She stressed that laws criminalizing people based on their sexual orientation are discriminatory by nature and violate several international treaties, including the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights, which states that all people are entitled to the same rights and freedoms ‘without distinction of any kind such as race, ethnic group, colour, sex, language, religion, political or any other opinion, national and social origin, fortune, birth or other status.’

But such laws unfortunately exist in many countries around the world, the High Commissioner said.

‘The trend should be towards getting rid of them, as is the case with other forms of discrimination,’ she emphasized. ‘Instead, some countries, including Malawi, seem to be heading in the opposite direction.’

The case of Mr. Monjeza and Mr. Chimbalanga, Ms. Pillay noted, seems to have sparked a pronounced deterioration in both official and public attitudes in Malawi, not just towards people perceived as being homosexual but also towards organizations speaking about sexual orientation and related issues, including groups working to mitigate the impact of HIV and AIDS.

‘I fear the reverberations of this decision, along with the recent attempt to bring in a new draconian bill aimed at homosexuals in Uganda, could have severe repercussions throughout the African continent,’ she said.

Homosexuality is already criminalized through Uganda’s existing penal code, but the new bill under consideration by the country’s Parliament prohibits any form of sexual relations between people of the same sex, as well as the promotion or recognition of homosexual relations as a healthy or acceptable lifestyle in public institutions. The punishment for those found guilty under the law could be life imprisonment or even the death penalty.

The Malawian decision ‘will inevitability drive same-sex couples underground, and if this trend continues and spreads, not only will it mark a major setback to civil liberties, it could have a disastrous effect on the fight against HIV/AIDS,’ the High Commissioner underlined.

She dismissed the argument that non-discrimination against people on the grounds of sexual orientation is a cultural issue.

‘It is a question of fundament rights, not one of geography, history or disparate cultures,’ Ms. Pillay stressed. ‘The protection of individuals against discrimination is pervasive in international human rights law. Why should it be suspended for this one group of human beings?'”