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27.06.2006 Crime & Punishment

Lawyer protests forced HIV tests for prostitutes

By The Ghanaian Times
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A human rights lawyer, Nana Oye Lithur, has protested against the mandatory HIV/AIDS test reportedly forced on nine suspected prostitutes by the La Magistrate's Court in Accra recently.

She addressed the court as a human rights lawyer, just before sentence was passed on three of the women who pleaded guilty to prostitution.

She said that, the mandatory tests constitute a violation of the rights of the persons involved, more so, without any counselling to prepare them for the news.

Mrs Lithur, who is the country representative of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, said that the court's action contravenes conventions that Ghana has signed to protect the rights of its citizens.

She contended that those who pleaded not guilty should not have been compelled to go through the HIV/AIDS test, saying, “even if necessary, it should be done with their consent.”

She said that the World Health Organization abhors mandatory AIDS tests as basis for establishing the HIV/AIDS status of a person anywhere in world, and pleaded with the court to look into the case based on humanitarian grounds since it is a first offence of the accused.

Before delivering judgement, the presiding judge, Florence Otu, expressed concern about the immoral conduct of the suspects describing it as an affront to society.

She suggested that the suspects could find more decent ways of earning a living rather than engaging in prostitution.

Three of the accused who pleaded guilty to the charge of practicing prostitution, were fined 2 million cedis each or in default, a month's imprisonment.

Four others who pleaded not guilty were granted a bail of 30 million cedis with a surety each until July 20.

Mrs. Otu further directed the suspects to go for counselling at the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital on issues pertaining to the HIV/AIDS, disease.

The mandatory HIV/AIDS tests were ordered when one out of the nine suspects being tried by the court, confessed that she was an AIDS patient.
Seven out of the nine suspects tested positive.

The suspects were arrested during a police-cum-military exercise in Accra on April 22.

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