The Marriages Amendment Bill, which was approved by Parliament last week and now awaits Presidential assent, decriminalises the wilful transmission of HIV.
Criminalising transmission of HIV has been condemned globally, with activists arguing that it has the effect of stigmatising those living with AIDS.
Meanwhile, Clause 53 of the Marriages Bill repeals Section 79 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) which made it an offence to transmit HIV to a partner in certain circumstances.
The section about to be repealed made it an offence not only for a person infected with HIV but also for one knowing there was a real risk or possibility that they were infected, to intentionally infect another person.
People guilty of deliberate transmission of HIV were liable for up to 20 years in jail but convictions were extremely rare.
In his presentation in the National Assembly during the initial stages of the Bill, Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister, Ziyambi Ziyambi, said that studies had shown that criminalising the transmission of HIV does not produce the intended results. He said:
What the ministry is going to do is to repeal that section of the law and ensure that we keep up to speed with modern trends in the world.
Chairperson of Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Health and Child Care, Dr Ruth Labode, is on record saying that there was no link between the marked decline in infection rates and the criminal sanctions.