Finding solid ground : law enforcement, key populations and their health and rights in South Africa
Marks, Monique Michal
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Introduction: Sex workers, people who use drugs, men who have sex with men, women who have sex with women and transgender people in South Africa frequently experience high levels of stigma, abuse and discrimination. Evidence suggests that such abuse is sometimes committed by police officers, meaning that those charged with protection are perpetrators. This reinforces cycles of violence, increases the risk of HIV infection, undermines HIV prevention and treatment interventions and violates the constitutional prescriptions that the police are mandated to protect. This paper explores how relationship building can create positive outcomes while taking into account the challenges associated with reforming police strategies in relation to key populations, and vice versa. Discussion: We argue that relationships between law enforcement agencies and key populations need to be re-examined and reconstituted to enable appropriate responses and services. The antagonistic positioning, ‘‘othering’’ and blame assignment frequently seen in interactions between law enforcement officials and key populations can negatively influence both, albeit for different reasons. In addressing these concerns, we argue that mediation based on consensual dialogue is required, and can be harnessed through a process that highlights points of familiarity that are often shared, but not understood, by both parties. Rather than laying blame, we argue that substantive changes need to be owned and executed by all role-players, informed by a common language that is cognisant of differing perspectives. Conclusions: Relational approaches can be used to identify programmes that align goals that are part of law enforcement, human rights and public health despite not always being seen as such. Law enforcement champions and representatives of key populations need to be identified and supported to promote interventions that are mutually reinforcing, and address perceived differences by highlighting commonality. Creating opportunities to share experiences in mediation can be beneficial to all role-players. While training is important, it is not a primary mechanism to change behaviour and attitudes.
Scheibe, A. et al. 2016. Finding solid ground : law enforcement, key populations and their health and rights in South Africa. Journal of the International AIDS Society. 19(Suppl 3): 1-6.