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BOTSWANA: Court rules on privacy violation

Photo: Darren J Sylvester/flickr
A breach of privacy
JOHANNESBURG, 9 July 2009 (PlusNews) - In the first case of its kind in Botswana, a woman has successfully sued another woman for publicly revealing her HIV status.

The High Court in Lobatse, a city in the southeast, has ruled that Sadi Nokane pay Obakeng Madubela US$1,000 in damages for violating Madubela's right to privacy. Around 55 percent of the population live on two dollars per day.

Madubela, 35, testified that on two separate occasions Nokane had approached her and, within earshot of a number of people, including several mutual friends, had made derogatory remarks about her HIV status.

On the first occasion, in a bar in December 2006, she had called Madubela an "AIDS patient"; on the second, in a local supermarket, she reportedly described Madubela's marriage as failing because of her HIV status.

Madubela was represented by Uyaopo Ndadi, acting director of the Botswana Network on Ethics, Law and HIV/AIDS (BONELA), who argued that Nokane's statements were defamatory, degrading and emotionally damaging.

Justice David Newman ruled that publicizing Madubela's confidential medical information had caused intentional distress and had negatively affected her personal and business relationships.

However, the judge threw out a case of defamation because it had not been filed within the prescribed period and Madubela was awarded significantly less than the $7,125 she had originally claimed.

Bonolo Dinokopila, a legal officer at BONELA, told IRIN/PlusNews that since the judgement a number of people had approached his organization with similar claims.

"We expect to have many more cases, because now people will see it's very serious when someone breaches confidentiality, and that you can actually go to court and win."

ks/he

Theme (s): HIV/AIDS (PlusNews), Stigma/Human Rights/Law - PlusNews,

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

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