BTW, Speaking about justice…

Criminalising as governance?

Posted on: April 14, 2010

Recently, there has been a discourse in Malawi about criminalising HIV transmission. This is a country where HIV testing is not mandatory and infected people may not reveal their sero-status. The immediate question is: How to decide who infected who?

Understanding the rage of those who support the cause, the feeling of disempowerment of those who are infected, and the precautions of those who were normally ignorant… I have my doubts that criminalising is an effective form of governance.

Criminalising is not just about typing words down on paper and have a legal stamp passing the new rule. It also involves setting up support systems for effective enforcement. After all, it is about making change, not adding more paperwork.

The basics would at least include: a database of existing HIV-infected people, strain-tracking system, points of service… These basics would have repercussions toward: personnels (availability, capability), supplies, points of service and its management, investments (public or private or both?), and so on.

And in practice, who is to say that person X wouldn’t infect him/herself deliberately with person Y’s strain for reasons only he/she understands? (Compare to problems with migrant construction workers cutting their own fingers to get insurance money in some countries).

The first counter argument would be: we can’t control everything, but at least there’s a framework that governs and deter HIV transmission.

My answer: having something ruled doesn’t automatically result in getting things right, or even done! I doubt that this regulation classifies transmission from pregnancy as criminal transmission. Why should pregnant women get the privilege?

Another point to keep in mind is that regulation-making is a negotiation process of myriads of interests.

What is the alternative? At this point, anything I say would just come out of my hat. But to govern HIV transmission and reduce it, why not work on sense of responsibility and moral obligations?


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Lishia Erza

Searching for answers about life, these are the ones I have found.

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