The Southern African Development Community (SADC), under the chairmanship of President Ian Khama, has rejected a proposal by the European and Latin American countries to include gays, sex workers and drug addicts in their master plan HIV/AIDS and the girl child resolution.
The SADC-sponsored United Nations Resolution on Women, the Girl Child and HIV, which was adopted by the UN recently, was established to curb the high prevalence rate and the effect that the HIV epidemic has on the southern African region. The minister of Labour and Home Affairs, Edwin Batshu told Mmegi that the meeting led to a commitment by member states to continue to fight the scourge of HIV/AIDS. Mmegi has learnt that the European and Latin American countries pleaded in vain with SADC to include gays, sex workers and drug addicts in their master plan if they are to win the fight against HIV/AIDS. The 15 countries rejected the proposals, arguing that they already have strategies in place to deal with the groups.
“We told them that we cannot agree to their proposal because we already have known strategies in place to deal with those groups. We continue to explore other better ways to address the groups' challenges,” Batshu said.
Batshu said dealing with some of these groups is often complex as they are outlawed in most African countries. There have been questions and debates over whether homosexuality is African, a debate that continues to date with African leaders taking different sides. A latest Afro Barometer report titled ‘good neighbours’ recently unearthed that the African community in 33 surveyed countries still shun homosexuals despite efforts by advocates. Africa’s negative attitudes toward homosexuals, the study says, are documented in the news media and, to a lesser extent, the academic literature.
“Afrobarometer survey data suggest this narrative to be true, as only 21% of all citizens across the 33 countries say they would like or would not mind having homosexual neighbours,” the report says.
The report further says there were, however, “important country-level differences that may be overlooked in the aggregate numbers. In four African countries, a majority of citizens express acceptance of neighbours who are homosexual: Cape Verde
(74% who would strongly/somewhat like or would not care), South Africa (67%), Mozambique (56%), and Namibia (55%)”.
SADC member states have since 1999 sponsored Resolution 58/3 on Women, the Girl Child and HIV and AIDS at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women. The resolution has been reviewed and updated on an annual basis during the Commission on the Status of Women Sessions (CSW), until 2012 when a decision was taken to review it every two years.
The United Nations Commission on the Status of Women is the principal global policy-making body dedicated exclusively to gender equality and the advancement of women. Every year, representatives of United Nations member states gather at the United Nations headquarters in New York to evaluate progress made on gender equality, identify challenges, set global standards and formulate concrete policies to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment worldwide.
In addition, every second year a resolution on ‘Women, the Girl Child and HIV and AIDS’ is tabled, traditionally by SADC. CSW resolution 58/3 is the only UN resolution that is comprehensively dedicated to the issue of women, girls, gender equality and HIV and AIDS.
During the 2012 and 2014, the 56th and 58th Sessions of the Commission on the Status of Women respectively, for the first time in the history of the CSW, the negotiation process failed due to a number of contentious issues which caused SADC and the African group to withdraw the co- sponsorship of the resolution. The contentious issues were, understanding of “comprehensive sexuality education, the evidence around the age of sexual debut and its benefits for protecting young girls from HIV; and upholding agreed language on issues around sexual and reproductive health and rights”.
Despite the withdrawal of the resolution at the CSW58 in 2014, SADC member states agreed to sponsor the resolution and table it again at CSW60 in March 2016 which they successfully did.