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Home The Speaker calls on SADC Parliamentarians to help contain the epidemic of bad laws affecting public health in the Region

The Speaker calls on SADC Parliamentarians to help contain the epidemic of bad laws affecting public health in the Region

Delegates at the SymposiumThe Speaker of the National Assembly of Seychelles, Honourable Dr. Patrick Herminie was the guest of honour at the Parliamentary Committees’ Symposium on Criminalisation and Stigmatisation which was organised by the Southern Africa Development Community-Parliamentary Forum (SADC-PF) in partnership with AIDS and Rights Alliance for Southern Africa (ARASA) in Johannesburg, South Africa on Tuesday 10th May, 2016. The Symposium which was held under the theme “Disincentives to the Realisation of Fundamental Human Rights and Public Health” saw the participation of over fifty parliamentarians and social activists from the SADC Region.

Hon. Dr. Herminie was invited by the SADC-PF to officially open the workshop. In his opening remarks, the Honourable Speaker invited all parliamentary representatives present to share their experiences and knowledge to better advocate for and protect human rights; to appreciate the downside of decriminalization in the public health response; to consider appropriate modalities for increased Parliamentary advocacy for decriminalization from a human rights perspective; and to consider strategies on how Parliaments can take concrete steps on these and other related issues.

Quoting statistics, the Honourable Speaker argued that criminalisation in public health is counterproductive and only contribute to drive those affected underground.

“As we work towards ending AIDS as a public health threat and achieving universal access to sexual reproductive health, my plea is that we say no to criminalization and discrimination, shun anecdotal evidence and begin to advocate and legislate on the basis of sound evidence”. It was on this note that the Speaker of the National Assembly of Seychelles appealed to all SADC parliamentarians to take a regional approach towards advocacy for sexual reproductive health rights in the Region.

The Speaker Delivering the Official Opening RemarksHe further reminded the parliamentarians present that they have it within their power to repeal laws that criminalize public health issues such as drug use, abortion and HIV/AIDS. “These laws”, he said, “are limiting the rights of people’s rights including sexual and reproductive rights and are having a negative impact on public health”.

The Speaker maintained that the time has come for policy makers to make a clear distinction between drug trafficking and drug addiction; the former is a law and order problem and the latter a public health issue that should not be tackled through legislation. Noting that HIV/AIDS is alarmingly increasing among drug users, the Speaker implored for the introduction of the needle exchange programme as a matter of urgency in the Southern Africa Region to mitigate the transmission of HIV and Hepatitis among drug users.

He lamented the fact that homosexuality remains a crime in many countries thus discouraging those with such practices from seeking health care. He deplored the fact that LGBTI personsstill face a plethora of hurdles in their quest for their full enjoyment of fundamental rights including their rights to health as enshrined in the Constitution. The Speaker argued that LGBTI people are born as such and said, “that if it is in born, then it is a human right issue”.

Reiterating that criminalisation is a recipe for public health disaster, the Speaker urged parliamentarians to help contain the epidemic of bad laws that ravages Africa. He concluded by saying that public health measures must be based on sound evidence and not on myths, assumptions and false hoods.

He congratulated SADC-PF and ARASA for organising the symposium and stressed that this would empower Members of Parliament to discharge their mandates on the basis of solid evidence and be agents of change.

The Speaker was accompanied to the symposium by Ms. Angelic Appoo.