Benin has an HIV-specific law outlining the obligation of all persons living with HIV to disclose their HIV status to their sexual partners. Non-disclosure of HIV-status prior to unprotected sex, regardless of whether the partner aquires HIV, is punishable by 5 to 10 years in prison and a fine up to 5 million francs CFA.
In cases of sexual assault, prior knowledge of HIV-positive status leads to aggravated sentencing of up to 20 years in prison and fines of up to 10 million francs CFA. The sentence is increased to life if committed against a vulnerable or disabled person.
There has been at least one case of aggravated sentencing in Benin where a person’s HIV-positive status has been used to elevate the seriousness of the offence. There have been no other known documented HIV criminalisation cases in Benin.
In November 2020, UNDP held a workshop in Cotonou, Benin, during which experts shared scientific data and information on the role of the criminal law in the response to HIV, with particular reference to the Expert Consensus Statement. The workshop was aimed at supporting local stakeholders in Francophone Africa, and particularly Benin, to determine the appropriate response to the HIV epidemic. During this meeting, the Executive Secretary of the National Council for the Fight against AIDS (CNLS), Tuberculosis and Hepatitis, Melchior Aïssi, acknowledged that the government wished to “humanise” the approach to HIV/AIDS in the country, as the current law perpetuates stigmatisation and discrimination.
Law No. 2005-31 of April 5, 2006 on the Prevention, Care and Control of HIV AIDS in the Republic of Benin
Article 4: […] Every person who has been tested positive for HIV has the obligation to inform his or her partner (s), with the support of a counselor if necessary. […]
Article 27: Anyone who knows that he or she is infected with the AIDS virus and knowingly has unprotected sex with a partner who is not aware of his HIV status, even if he or she is HIV-positive ( ve), shall be punished by imprisonment of five (05) to ten (10) years and a fine of one million (1,000,000) francs to five million (5,000,000) francs CFA.
Article 30: Anyone who knows that he or she is infected with the AIDS virus who, when using violence, coercion or surprise, engages in unprotected sexual intercourse of any kind with a person, will be punished with criminal imprisonment from five (05) to twenty (20) years and a fine of three million (3,000,000) francs to ten million (10,000,000) CFA francs. If the act was committed under threat by one or more persons, by a legitimate, natural or adoptive ascendant of the victim or by a person who abused the authority conferred upon him by his duties, on a vulnerable person, a disable adult or minor, the sentence will a life sentence in prison.
Stéphanie Claivaz-Loranger & Cécile Kazatchkine
Report presenting the results of a survey on HIV criminalization in African countries where French is spoken conducted from May to September 2017.