What Can You Do?
Every country’s approach to criminalization varies and the pressures and freedoms for advocacy groups can be different across the world. However, there are things that can be done in every country to challenge or lessen the damage being done by criminalization. Below are some common themes and lessons that have emerged from successful campaigns around the world.
Our campaign has a number of useful tools that you can adapt and use to build your own community response to HIV criminalization. Use our campaign toolkit, media pack or ‘build your own campaign’ resource to inform or enhance your own campaigning activities.
Community responses need a network of individuals or advocacy groups who can work together to fight against criminalization. Building a network can mean many things. If you are an individual who is concerned about criminalization, this might mean joining, or even creating, an advocacy group in your country. For organizations, this can mean joining with other groups who have the same aims as you to create a stronger voice against criminalization. It can also mean reaching out to other individuals or organizations around the world that are knowledgeable or have experience in working in this area.
By collecting evidence on the impact of these laws, we can develop strong and persuasive arguments that show the damage that is being done by criminalization. This can involve gathering or sharing personal stories of the impact of cases on individuals, or exposing myths and untruths that exist within communities. Community advocates are in an ideal position to build up a picture of what is happening on the ground and communicate that to the wider public and decision makers.
The nature and impact of criminalization is not well understood, and there is an urgent need to raise awareness among every group of people who could be affected by this issue. For example, people living with HIV need better information and support to understand the implications of criminalization for their own lives and relationships. Governments, prosecutors and the media need to be educated on the damage done by discriminatory attitudes and the wider implications of these cases. Lawyers need advice on how to put together a strong defence and to advocate for people who are charged. In come countries even public health agencies have had to be educated and alerted to the threat posed by criminalization.
The pressure and freedoms for advocacy groups can be different across the world, and it won’t always be possible to go straight to politicians with your message. However, there are lots of different ways to build the kind of influence with decision makers that can make a difference. You can use your stories and evidence base to reach out to sympathetic decision makers and influencers in a wide range of areas like, human and civil rights agencies, public health bodies, the judiciary, the police, the prosecution service, lawyers and solicitors, and politicians. By doing this you may be able to make them look at their own approach to criminalization or get them to join you in fighting against the issue. Reaching out to the right decision makers can help to limit the damage done by prosecutions, and build pressure on Governments to make change. Even if you are not able to overturn legislation, or stop prosecutions, you may be able bring about measures, such as guidelines or policies, that reduce the harm done by criminalization.
For examples of successful campaigns and advocacy from around the world visit: Success Stories