MEDIA FACT SHEET – THE HIV EMPLOYMENT LAW CAMPAIGN

16 October 2006
MEDIA FACT SHEET – THE HIV EMPLOYMENT LAW CAMPAIGN

WHAT IS THE CAMPAIGN?
The HIV Employment Law Campaign is a multi-partner campaign calling on the Botswana Government and policymakers to enact and pass a law to protect HIV-related rights in the workplace.

The campaign consists of:

  • nation-wide efforts to circulate a petition, collecting signatures of people in support of passing the law;
  • a public march and rally on 11 November in Gaborone; and,
  • an awareness-raising media campaign, which includes a billboard, posters, leaflets, radio jingles and media coverage.

The HIV Employment Law Campaign is aimed at encouraging all concerned individuals, workers, unions, students and youth to become involved in urging the government to pass such a law. They are being asked to:

  • sign the petition;
  • participate in the 11 November march and rally;
  • contact their MPs about the issue; and,
  • spread the word about the campaign.

WHY IS THERE A NEED FOR THE CAMPAIGN?
In Botswana, there is currently no law specifically protecting HIV-related rights in the context of employment.

In the absence of such a law, individuals do not have guaranteed protection against many acts of HIV-related discrimination in the workplace. These situations include:

  • the dismissal of workers in Botswana because they are HIV positive;
  • insistence by companies that people test for HIV before they are hired;
  • denial of promotion or training opportunities because of an individual’s HIV-positive status; and,
  • refusal of time off for caregivers to care for family members living with HIV.

While there are policies recommending measures to protect the rights of people infected and affected by HIV, these policies are not legally binding. This means they are implemented only at the subjective discretion of each employer.



WHO IS INVOLVED IN THIS CAMPAIGN? 
While the Botswana Network on Ethics, Law and HIV/AIDS (BONELA) and the Botswana Federation of Trade Unions (BFTU) are spearheading the campaign, the list of partners continues to grow. Currently, they include:

Association of Botswana Tertiary Lecturers (ABOTEL)
Bank of Botswana Employees’ Union (BOBEU) 
Bomme Isago 
Botswana Civil Servants Association (BCSA)
Botswana Diamond Value Sorting Union (BDVSU)
Botswana Mining Workers Union (BMIWU)
Botswana Power Corporation Workers’ Union (BPCWU)
Botswana Railways Amalgamated  Workers’ Union (BRAWU)
Botswana Teachers’ Union (BTU)
Botswana Telecommunication Employees’ Union (BOTEU)
Botswana Unified Local Government Service Association (BULSGA)
Botswana Vaccine Institute Union (BVISU)
Central Bank Union (CBU)
Coping Centre for People Living with AIDS (COCEPWA)
Health Promotion International
Nkaikela Youth Group
Salvation Army Psycho-Social Support Initiative (SAPSSI) 
Talk Unit Centre
University of Botswana Legal Clinic

THE PETITION
Since late September, both English and Setswana versions of the petition for an HIV Employment Law have been circulating around Botswana. After the collection of signatures from around the country, the petitions will be officially presented to Parliament and the Ministry of Labour and Home Affairs.

In addition to a paper version made available for individuals to sign in person, the petition will be launched online at BONELA’s website (www.bonela.org). This innovation may be the first time in Botswana that efforts for a mass signature petition have embraced Internet technology in such a way.

The petition addresses the following key points:
*Employment Protection and Job Security of Infected and Affected Workers

  • Employers should not terminate the employment of an employee on the diagnosis of a chronic or terminal illness.
  • Employers should reasonably accommodate leave requirements of workers who are infected and affected (including caregivers) by chronic illnesses.

*Testing for HIV for purposes of recruitment, promotion, or other benefits

  • Testing for HIV for the purposes of consideration for employment or promotion should not take place.

*Confidentiality of Personal Information

  • An employer should not disclose the HIV status (and related information) of any worker acquired in the course of duties without obtaining the written consent of worker.  Shared confidentiality should be restricted to those people to whom the PLWA has agreed to disclose.

*Non-discrimination of HIV-infected workers

  • There shall be no discrimination based on the real or perceived HIV status of a worker or his or her family.  Any prejudice with respect to a particular job, based on the inherent requirements of the job, shall not be deemed discrimination.

*Protection of vulnerable groups

  • The most effective policies and strategies should be applied to protect vulnerable people in order to reduce transmission of HIV/AIDS.

*Care and Support for HIV-infected workers

  • Employers should make reasonable efforts to make comprehensive, cost-effective and affordable care accessible to people living with HIV/AIDS in all work places including both formal and informal sectors.

*Gender Equality and Empowerment

  • Men and women should be given equal opportunity and equal chance for advancement in the sphere of employment.  Sexual harassment should not be tolerated.

*Prevention of HIV at workplace

  • In a workplace where workers are at higher risk to be infected by HIV or have regular contact with human blood, additional medical services and safety items should be made available. In low-risk workplaces, employers should provide information on how to prevent HIV outside of work.

*Making the right to health a constitutional right

THE MARCH FOR AN HIV EMPLOYMENT LAW
In support of an HIV employment law, a mass demonstration march and rally will be held on the morning of 11 November 2006 in Gaborone. Participants should gather outside the National Stadium (Ngotwane football grounds) at 7 a.m. The march will end with a public reading of the petition.

BONELA is a Gaborone-based non-governmental organisation working on the ethical, legal and human rights dimensions of the HIV/AIDS pandemic in Botswana.  BONELA is involved in research, training, advocacy, legal assistance and public education.

The Botswana Federation of Trade Unions (BFTU) is the national trade union federation for Botswana. Founded in 1977, it represents the vast majority of all trade unions in the country.

For further information or requests for media interviews for the HIV Employment Law Campaign, please contact Cynthia Lee, BONELA Media and Advocacy Officer, at 393-2516.