Le­sotho mulls de­crim­i­nal­iz­ing same-sex re­la­tion­ships

Lesotho Times - - News - Pas­cali­nah Kabi

DEPUTY Prime Min­is­ter Mo­thetjoa Mets­ing yes­ter­day said Le­sotho was go­ing to look into de­crim­i­nal­iz­ing same-sex re­la­tion­ships to stop the spread of HIV.

Mr Mets­ing said the move would re­move bar­ri­ers pre­vent­ing mem­bers of the Les­bian, Gay, Bi­sex­ual, Trans­gen­der and In­ter­sex (LGBTI) com­mu­nity from ac­cess­ing HIV and AIDS ser­vices.

The deputy prime min­is­ter, who was ad­dress­ing the me­dia in the wake of de­ci­sions made at the 2016 united Na­tions Gen­eral As­sem­bly High-level Meet­ing on HIV/AIDS held in New York last week, said it was im­por­tant for Le­sotho to adopt mea­sures for the erad­i­ca­tion of the dis­ease which con­tin­ues to wreak havoc among com­mu­ni­ties.

Mr Mets­ing led Le­sotho’s del­e­ga­tion to the three-day as­sem­bly that dis­cussed AIDS is­sues within Sus­tain­able De­vel­op­ment Goals (SDGS), which in­clude end­ing poverty and hunger, im­prov­ing health and ed­u­ca­tion.

The as­sem­bly fur­ther had panel dis­cus­sions on top­ics such as pre­vent­ing new Hiv-in­fec­tions and end­ing stigma and dis­crim­i­na­tion through so­cial jus­tice and in­clu­sive so­ci­eties.

“The meet­ing agreed that we must fast-track the pre­ven­tion of HIV and AIDS in our re­spec­tive coun­tries.

“So for us to fast-track the 9090-90 tar­gets by 2020, we need to en­sure Hiv-ser­vices are in­clu­sive of key pop­u­la­tions like pris­on­ers, sex-work­ers and men hav­ing sex with men, women hav­ing sex with women or even a boy hav­ing sex with a boy,” Mr Mets­ing said.

He added it was against this back­ground that the Gen­eral As­sem­bly dis­cov­ered that these key pop­u­la­tions’ hu­man rights have been vi­o­lated for years be­cause of ex­clu­sive HIV and AIDS ser­vices.

“The As­sem­bly fur­ther agreed that there are cer­tain prac­tices that must be de­crim­i­nalised for mem­ber-states to achieve these set goals,” he said.

“For ex­am­ple, the is­sue of men hav­ing sex with men or a boy with a boy is not ac­cepted or le­gal in this coun­try but the main is­sue here is, if they are do­ing it and this is giv­ing us prob­lems like an un­wanted dis­ease bur­den, what are we say­ing about this?”

Mr Mets­ing said it was wor­ry­ing that some peo­ple are re­fus­ing to bring con­doms into pris­ons cit­ing it was il­le­gal for men to have sex with men.

“Even if it’s il­le­gal for them to have sex, are we say­ing peo­ple should con­tinue to in­fect each other be­cause it’s il­le­gal for a man to have sex with a man?

“Aren’t we giv­ing them a death sen­tence by re­fus­ing to give them con­doms even though HIV and AIDS is not a death sen­tence?” he asked.

He fur­ther said the coun­try needs to take dras­tic mea­sures to en­sure the LGBTI com­mu­nity ac­cesses HIV and AIDS ser­vices has­sle-free.

This, he added, could be achieved by train­ing health work­ers some of whom have “a bad at­ti­tude to­wards these peo­ple who, like ev­ery­one else, have the right to HIV and AIDS ser­vices”.

Health-work­ers and ev­ery Mosotho should un­der­stand HIV and AIDS ser­vices can never be “one size fits all”, Mr Mets­ing added.

“It is im­por­tant for us, as a coun­try, to have in­clu­sive ser­vices which cater for ev­ery­one’s needs. Hu­man life is an im­por­tant thing and we must do ev­ery­thing in our power to save lives even if we have to do away with things like cul­tural prac­tices pre­vent­ing us from sav­ing lives,” Mr Mets­ing said.

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