Victory for Free Speech and Public Health
Today, a Federal Appeals court in New York upheld a case brought by Pathfinder International and Alliance for Open Society International, which challenged a government rule commonly referred to as the "anti-prostitution loyalty oath." Under the rule, recipients of US global HIV and AIDS funds must formally pledge their opposition to prostitution in order to remain eligible for funding. The requirement forces organizations to censor even their privately-funded speech regarding the most effective ways to engage high-risk groups in HIV prevention.
The 2-to-1 ruling by the US 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the decision of the US District Court for the Southern District of New York, which has twice ruled that the anti-prostitution loyalty oath violates the First Amendment by restricting privately funded speech and forcing organizations to adopt the government's viewpoint. A preliminary injunction has prohibited USAID and the Department of Health and Human Services from enforcing the loyalty oath against the plaintiff organizations, including the US-based members of the Global Health Council and InterAction, who joined the case in 2008.
"Today's victory has profound implications not only for the rights of private, non-governmental organizations to operate without undue government interference, but for the health of vulnerable women, men, and adolescents in less developed countries," Pathfinder President Daniel E. Pellegrom, said. "Any organization that works to address the tragedy of HIV and AIDS must confront head on the need to serve sex workers, but the loyalty oath undermines our efforts by forcing us to stigmatize the very people we are trying to reach."
Pathfinder and Alliance for Open Society International originally brought the case to court in 2005.
Pathfinder commends the court's decision which upholds the rights of organizations to implement evidence-based programs to prevent HIV and AIDS without impediment.
"Pathfinder is committed to continuing to stand up for this right, as well as the health and rights of those we serve," President Pellegrom said. "We believe the court decision should stand, and the US government should take steps to immediately repeal this harmful policy."
For more information, please contact email@example.com or call 617.972.1291.
Commission on Population and Development Champions Reproductive Health and Rights for Sustainable Development
This past weekend, national governments called for the promotion of sexual and reproductive health and rights as a part of the emerging sustainable development framework at the Commission on Population and Development.
Pathfinder International Commends Commission on the Status of Women for Landmark Gender Equality Agreement
On Saturday, United Nations Member States agreed that a stand-alone gender equality and women’s empowerment goal is crucial to the post-2015 sustainable development goals.