SECTION27 is a public interest law centre that seeks to influence, develop and use the law to protect, promote and advance human rights. Our name is drawn from the section in the South African Constitution which enshrines everyone's right to health care, food, water and social security.
On Monday 5th July Mark Heywood, the director of SECTION27, was one of the keynote speakers at the launch of China’s first ever forum between the Chinese government and civil society representatives to talk about human rights issues linked to HIV/AIDS. The China Red Ribbon Beijing Forum as it is known was opened by the Vice Minister of Health, Yin Li, UNAIDS and a person living with HIV. Heywood spoke on the importance of engagement between government and civil society on issues of human rights.
Fourteen years ago, our freely elected representatives adopted the Constitution – in part – to “free the potential of each person”, “[h]eal the divisions of the past and establish a society based on democratic values, social justice and fundamental human rights”.
It is a terrible irony that the need for an effective and ongoing response to the AIDS epidemic will be one of the defining legacies left to the ANC by a President who tried to deny the existence of HIV. It is also ironic that the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC), an organization that Mbeki once branded as ‘flag carrier for pharmaceutical companies’, is heralded one of the few organizations that was able to force a complete overturn policy in an area defined and defended by himself, during his Presidency.