Zero Discrimination Day is observed on March 1each year by the United Nations (UN) and other international organisations. The day is celebrated for the right of everyone to live life with dignity. It highlights how people can become informed about and promote inclusion, compassion, peace and create a global movement of solidarity to end all forms of discrimination.
The UN first celebrated this day on March 1, 2014 after UNAIDS, a UN program on human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS), launched its Zero Discrimination Campaign on 'World AIDS Day' in December 2013. The day was launched by UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé on 27 February of that year with a major event in Beijing.
Zero Discrimination Day started with a focus on HIV to highlight how people can become informed about and promote the rights of people living with and affected by HIV.
In recent years it has expanded to focus on ending all forms of discrimination that impact on quality of life, health and well-being. Organizations like the United Nations (UN) actively promote the day with various activities to celebrate everyone's right to live a full life with dignity regardless of age, gender, nationality, ethnicity, skin colour, height, weight, profession, education, and beliefs.
Many countries have laws against discrimination but it's still a problem in all layers of society in every country in the world. Countries still use discrimination as a way of governing.
The theme for Zero Discrimination Day 2023 is 'Save lives: Decriminalise.' Under this theme, UNAIDS will highlight the decriminalisation of key populations and people living with HIV saves lives. It will help advance the end of the AIDS pandemic.
Key populations include communities at higher risk of HIV infection including gay men and other men who have sex with men, people who use drugs, sex workers, transgender people and people in prisons and other closed settings.
Criminal laws targeting key populations and people living with HIV violate people’s human rights, exacerbate the stigma people face and put people in danger by creating barriers to the support and services they need to protect their health.
In 2021, the world set ambitious law reform targets to remove criminal laws that are undermining the HIV response and leaving key populations behind. Recognising decriminalization as a critical element in the response, countries made a commitment that by 2025 less than 10% of countries would have punitive legal and policy environments that affect the HIV response.
However, despite some encouraging reforms, the world is far from achieving the target. In fact, today there are 134 countries explicitly criminalising or otherwise prosecuting HIV exposure, non-disclosure or transmission; 20 countries criminalise and/or prosecute transgender persons; 153 countries criminalise at least one aspect of sex work; and 67 countries now criminalize consensual same-sex sexual activity, according to UNAIDS.
In addition, 48 countries still place restrictions on entry into their territory for people living with HIV, while 53 countries report that they require mandatory HIV testing, for example for marriage certificates or for performing certain professions. 106 countries report requiring parental consent for adolescents to access HIV testing.
Criminalisation drives discrimination and structural inequalities. It robs people of the prospect of healthy and fulfilling lives. And it holds back the end of AIDS.
(To receive our E-paper on WhatsApp daily, please click here. To receive it on Telegram, please click here. We permit sharing of the paper's PDF on WhatsApp and other social media platforms.)