- What issue are you addressing? Why is UNDP involved?
In recent years, the results of CSO rights monitoring have shown an increase in the application of administrative and criminal penalties against PLHIV and KPs. Even in cases where there is no evidence of HIV transmission, Article 125 of the Criminal Code is applied very often towards PLHIV. The Article stipulates criminal penalties not only for intentional transmission of HIV, but also for putting another person at risk of HIV infection. Furthermore, by-laws on mandatory HIV testing for employment, admission to study, prior to marriage were adopted, and administrative penalties towards KPs, in particular sex workers, have increased. The most recent Stigma Index study highlights high levels of stigma and discrimination against PLHIV and KPs, including when accessing HIV testing services.
- What is UNDP doing to address the issue?
In 2020, UNDP supported the Supreme Court of the Republic of Tajikistan to conduct analysis of judicial practice in relation to application of Article 125 of the Criminal Code on criminalization of HIV. This analysis identified key shortcomings in the judicial system that lead to unnecessarily aggressive legal proceedings against PLHIV and their discrimination. The findings and recommendations were presented at the 2nd EECA Judges Forum held in Tajikistan in October 2020. Furthermore, based on this analysis, a draft Supreme Court Plenum Resolution on HIV criminalization is being prepared which will provide further guidance to judges on how to correctly interpret and apply laws and mitigate the negative impacts on PLHIV and KPs.
UNDP also supported the work of an Expert Working Group on amendments to the Criminal Code of the Republic of Tajikistan under Part 1 of Article 125.
In December 2020, as part of an innovative solution to address GBV against vulnerable women, including WLHIV, UNDP together with partners organized an online Hackathon to map out the social and legal pathways to access quality GBV services. 3 teams were selected and rewarded for developing quick and innovative solutions to responding, warning and reporting on cases of domestic violence with 1 team receiving financial support to finalize and pilot the tool.
- What impact has UNDP made in addressing the issue?
Creating an enabling HIV legal environment requires targeted advocacy, obtaining high-level support and consensus-building among various government sectors, including law enforcement agencies, CSOs and international partners.
Building on HIV Legal Environment Assessment recommendations, UNDP has supported the revision of HIV-related legislation, including on decriminalization of HIV transmission, removal of mandatory testing for employment, admission to study, reducing stigma and discrimination and increasing access for PLHIV and KPs to justice. UNDP has also ensured that these key priority areas are incorporated in the new 2021-2025 National HIV and AIDS Programme.
UNDP designed and supported CSO advocacy capacity for the removal of legal barriers and monitoring of rights violations. The capacity of 150 lawyers and judges on the specificities of court cases related to HIV and co-infections was strengthened in 2020. As a result, several strategic litigation cases related to the criminalization of HIV transmission were successfully supported. In 2020, legal support was provided to address 7 criminal and 3 civil cases.
As part of the current Global Fund grant, UNDPs supports the Center for Human Rights to run a hotline for legal support to victims of human rights violations. The hotline is runs 24/7 and over the course of June-December 2020, a total of 274 juridical consultations were provided, including to 149 women.
Finally, through the flexible reprogramming of HIV funds, UNDP, during the COVID-19 pandemic ensured access of individual protection kits to over 400 CSO staff working with KPs in 24 districts. In total, 7 NGOs with approximately 60 staff members including field workers, outreach workers and peer consultants supporting over 400 KPs were covered. Over 200 pregnant WLHIV and women caring for newborn babies received protection kits and nutritional support including food parcels.
- What key message do you have for other UNDP country offices?
It is important for UNDP COs and colleagues to have the opportunity and platform to share their experiences with working on human rights and HIV issues and ensuring the involvement of CSOs in addressing stigma and discrimination.
For more information about the work conducted by UNDP Tajikistan contact Nargiza Saparova, Prevention and Scale up Specialist - firstname.lastname@example.org