A new law protecting HIV/AIDS patients’ rights to privacy, work and admission in a hospital is on the anvil for the monsoon session of Parliament. The law will also empower woman with the right to seek an HIV test from a prospective groom before marriage.
For a country with the highest number of HIV/AIDS patients (57 lakh) in the world, the bill proposes to nip the bud at the marriage level. After the law comes into force, registration of marriages will be made mandatory. Getting an HIV/AIDS test done will only be a voluntary provision for getting a marriage registered. But not declaring HIV-positive status before marriage will be grounds for divorce and women will have the right to seek an HIV test from a husband or fiance. Women will also have the right to declare an unregistered marriage void and decide on her pregnancy if she is HIV-positive.
The HIV/AIDS Bill, drafted by the Lawyers’ Collective for the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, has been circulated to different ministries for their views. “We expect to introduce the bill before the end of the monsoon session,” said a senior ministry official.
The states will formulate ‘gender-based’ programmes that recognise the biological and socio-cultural factors influencing the health of women, the Bill says.
They will also be required to constitute sexual assault crises centres at the district level for the counselling of victims of sexual assault, including wives.
The protection of children affected by HIV – like the right to property and education — has also been dealt in detail in the Bill. States will be required to frame special schemes for HIV infected children.
Also, discrimination against HIV/AIDS patients at any level, can result in imprisonment.