South Africa: Opposition leader Helen Zille says HIV exposure is ‘attempted murder’, cites Nadja Benaissa case as example

South Africa’s leader of the Democratic Alliance opposition party, Western Cape Premier Helen Zille has said that HIV-positive people who knowingly have unprotected sex without disclosing their status, should be charged with attempted murder. She also cited the recent case of German pop star, Nadja Benaissa, as an example for South Africa to follow.

Her remarks, reported in the Cape Times, were made during an address to the South African Institute of International Affairs last week.

She said the lack of personal responsibility contributed to some of the greatest social ills in the country.

“Social pathologies are complex, but I think we must all agree that promoting a culture of personal responsibility is essential to addressing all these things. We also need to take action against people who are HIV-positive and knowingly have unprotected sex without disclosing their status. This, I believe, is an offence on a par with attempted murder. This is complex and difficult, and requires enormous courage from the wronged sexual partner to lay a charge and give evidence,” Zille said.


Zille said the recent court case against a German pop star for failing to disclose her HIV-positive status was an example to emulate. German singer Nadja Benaissa, a member of No Angels, was found guilty of causing grievous bodily harm to her ex-boyfriend by having unprotected sex with him despite knowing she had HIV. The 28-year-old was given a two-year suspended prison sentence and 300 hours’ community service. Zille said the lack of personal responsibility contributed to some of the greatest social problems facing the country, such as HIV/Aids, alcoholism, drug abuse, teenage pregnancy, foetal alcohol syndrome, and absentee fathers who did not pay maintenance.

In 2001, the South African Law Commission undertook a comprehensive review of the need for an HIV-specific criminal law. It concluded that “an HIV-specific statutory offence/s will have no or little practical utility; the social costs entailed in creating an HIV-specific statutory offence/s are not justified; and an HIV-specific statutory offence/s will infringe the right to privacy to an extent that is not justified.”

A 2003 Criminal Law Amendment Bill sought to define non-disclosure of HIV status prior to otherwise consensual sex as rape, but that definition was not included in the version of the bill ultimately approved in 2007. Rather, the legislation requires HIV-antibody testing for suspected rapists and allows for longer prison sentences for rapists found to be HIV-positive.