Government clampdown on civil society hindering war on HIV

Ribbon. [Photo: Courtesy]
Shrinking civic space is impacting negatively on the fight against HIV in Kenya, a new report suggests.

The report titled ‘Reinforcing Marginalisation: The impact of the closing of civic space on HIV response in Ethiopia, Kenya, and Uganda’ points out that the clampdown on civil society organisations is impeding and actually reversing the gains that have been achieved in the campaign against HIV.

The report states that this has been perpetuated through laws that inhibit freedom for these societies to operate. With restrictions on registration, financing and operations, civil society organisations are being choked out of critical operations.

“These laws create a high-risk climate for organisations explicitly focused on key populations,” reads the report, which quotes a sex worker advocate as saying, “We fear being closed down because the law criminalises sex work.”

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Criminal law has also been called out as part of the system that is working against the gains.

“Some donors do not want to support the work we do because of the criminal laws,” one interviewee is quoted in the report done through a partnership between the International Centre for Not-for-Profit Law, Kenya Legal and Ethical Issues Network, and Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum of Uganda.

Since last year, the Kenyan government has been cracking down on civil society organisations.

Some have faced deregistration, which impacts on their legal status and financing including for HIV programmes.

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