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Tuesday 16 June 2009

Global prosecutions league table sees Sweden on top

I've just done a rather quick and dirty calculation of prosecutions for HIV non-disclosure, exposure or transmission per capita, based on GNP+'s Global Criminalisation Scan data, and produced this rather interesting league table.

Despite Canada, the US and Australia being disproportionately represented on my blog, due to the sheer number of prosecutions taking place, Sweden, Norway and New Zealand have actually prosecuted the highest proportion of people with HIV in their respective countries.

Having just returned from an excellent conference organised by HIV Sweden in Stockholm (on which I reported today in this news story, highlights of which are below), it really comes as no surprise that Sweden and Norway head the league of shame.

And last Tuesday, Mr Justice Cameron addressed a meeting in Stockholm organised by HIV Sweden to discuss HIV and the criminal law in Sweden and other Nordic countries.

The meeting heard that Sweden's laws were often applied selectively and discriminatory, including the recent case of an African migrant woman who had gone to the police after being raped by two men.

However, rather than charge her assailants, the police charged the woman with HIV exposure. The case is still ongoing.

Peter Gröön, of Stockholm County Council, shared data showing that African migrants – ten of the 16 people prosecuted in the past five years – also received longer prison sentences than their Swedish counterparts. Mr Justice Cameron told the meeting that this kind of HIV exceptionalism, which is fuelled by stigma, must not be tolerated. "We want [HIV to be treated] neither better, nor worse than any other disease," he said.

The meeting also heard that a coalition of grass roots and civil society organisations in Norway might lead to an abolition of Norway's current HIV exposure and transmission law, Section 155, which has led to ten prosecutions the past five years.

The law, which does not allow HIV-negative people to consent to unprotected sex, and makes little distinction between HIV exposure and transmission, places the burden on HIV-positive individuals to both disclose HIV status and insist on condom use in order to be able to avoid potential prosecution.

Through a campaign that has included providing every MP in Norway with information about the inequities of the law, and a major newspaper article from Mr Justice Cameron, published in May, representatives of HIV Manifesto and HIV Norway were hopeful that the law will be repealed during the country's revision of the its Penal Code.

The meeting also heard that a similar opportunity might also be possible in Sweden later in the year, during the pubic debate that will follow a proposal to lengthen prison sentences for assault (the law under which criminal HIV exposure and transmission is prosecuted in Sweden).


Edwin J Bernard said...

I wanted to mention that there has been some discussion of this posting on Facebook (where my blog is also published). Julian Hows of GNP+, who co-authored the THT/GNP+ European Scan in 2005, pointed out "that we did something similar for the 2005 scan (number of PLHIV in a country /number of prosecutions) but thought the results misleading -or at least not significant because of other variables such as lack of precise info re prevalence for many countries."

He is absolutely right. We would need SOPHID-type data on all these countries, as well as more reliable data on arrests, not just prosections to see just how active each country is. But in the end, since it does look like male migrants or, in the US, African-Americans, are over-represented in prosecutions in these low-prevalence countries, and they are precisely the groups with the lowest testing rates, then the numbers are extremely skewed towards diproportionate prosecutions for non-nationals and non-whites and we'd have to include data on their prevalence in each country, as well as HIV prevalence amongst them, to really be accurate!

Julian said...

Thanks for this Bernard - for further information on the 2005 scan and the results which confirm your findings for Europe about the disproportionate use of the laws toward certain population groups please look at


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