The lecture is being hosted in conjunction with the Commonwealth Foundation and the Commonwealth HIV & AIDS Action Group (CHAAG) as part of a wider project involving civil society and state actors which focuses on ‘Addressing the Structural Barriers to HIV & AIDS - Stigma, Human Rights and Law Reform in the Commonwealth’.
The lecture will be given by Justice Ajit Prakash Shah who during his distinguished career in the High Courts of Bombay, Madras and Delhi ushered in a range of reforms including dismissing quotas restricting the number of people who could pull rickshaws, pushing transport authorities to provide access for disabled customers, upholding Muslim women’s rights to maintenance and requiring state schools to hire specialist teachers to support dyslexic children.
However, it will be his ruling which overturned Section 377, a 150-year old British law banning gay sex between consenting adults, finding it a “violation of fundamental rights” that will be most remembered.
Justice Shah will talk about what motivated him to make this controversial ruling and the importance of the effect of the legal environment on human rights and combating the spread of AIDS. He will also reflect on the opportunities that exist for the Commonwealth to be a champion for human rights and law reform.
HIV & human rights in the Commonwealth
Commonwealth countries make up over 30% of the world’s population. Over 60% of people living with HIV and AIDS reside in Commonwealth states. The Commonwealth is made up of 53 independent states, 47 classify same-sex sexual conduct as illegal and only 6 legal.
Laws can either enable or obstruct a comprehensive HIV response. They contribute to the ability of those who are discriminated against to claim their rights but also increases awareness of HIV stigma and discrimination in policies and programmes. Without including those who are particularly vulnerable to HIV, such as men who have sex with men, programmes to combat the spread of HIV will not succeed.
Read our Issues Paper on HIV and the Law.
The lecture will be chaired by Cherie Booth QC.
Entrance to the lecture is strictly by invitation only. To find out more, click here.