Human Rights/Politics
Business Day,
25 October 2002, Rights body backs HIV tests in rape cases

THE SA Human Rights Commission has come out in support of cabinet-approved draft legislation allowing for testing of the HIV-status of suspected rapists.

This reflects the challenge the criminal justice system has in balancing competing rights and interest.

"While the suspect is presumed to be innocent and has the rights to bodily integrity and privacy, the victim of sexual assault also has the right to know whether the accused has HIV," said commission spokeswoman Phumla Mthala.

The commission, she said, considered the nature of sexual violence in society and the far-reaching results of the HIV pandemic and found these factors constituted a reasonable and justifiable limitation of the rights of the accused.

Meanwhile, opposition parties said the decision was a victory for all South Africans. Democratic Alliance MP Sandy Kalyan said the decision was welcome and long overdue.

New National Party MP Sheila Camerer said compulsory screening was a crucial measure to combat the spreading of AIDS and protect rape survivors. Sapa