Fifty-two-year-old Johnson Aziga was convicted this past weekend on two counts of first degree murder, 10 counts of aggravated sexual assault and one count of attempted sexual assault.
From these bare facts, if you didn’t know anything about Aziga’s health—he has HIV—or his case, you might naturally assume that he was a serial rapist with no qualms about silencing resistant victims by garrotting them or smashing their heads in with a rock.
But that is far from the case. Aziga is the first person in Canada, possibly in the world, to have been convicted of actual murder—and liable to a life sentence with no eligibility for parole for 25 years—for being a sexual bounder: that is, for repeatedly lying about his health status to his consensual sexual partners.
Other Canadian men have received harsh sentences for similar repetitive duplicity resulting in HIV-infected women: Last year Carl Leone was sentenced to 18 years, and in 2006 Adrien Nduwayo received 15 years. In 1993 AIDS-riddled Charles Ssenyonga died before a verdict was pronounced on a long history of wilful deceit with multiple partners.
Will all Canadian women sleep easier knowing Aziga no longer prowls the streets in search of prey? No, because “society” was never in danger from Aziga or the afore-mentioned other miscreants. None were rapists: Their victims were women who paid a disproportionately high price for their naivete. It was reasonable for citizens of Walkerton, Ont., to assume their water was safe to drink. It is not reasonable to enter into unregulated, inherently high-risk activity “guaranteed” by a near-stranger.
Morally these men are despicable, and they should pay an appropriate price for it. But sexual immorality and murder—except in cultures whose legal systems Canadians deplore—are not equally heinous. How many new prisons would have to be built, for example, if this precedent were applied in certain parts of Africa? Would it still be murder if Aziga lied, but his partner insisted on condoms anyway, then contracted and died from the virus (a distinct possibility since “protection” often fails)?
You may furthermore have noticed that all these men are heterosexual, and all the victims are women.
AIDS is also spread in prisons by male-on-male sex, consensual or not, as well as consensually in gay bathhouses. I have yet to hear of any inmate charged with murder, or any promiscuous gay man serving a day in prison, let alone a life sentence, for having “bareback” sex. In bathhouses, as with prostitutes, the rule is caveat emptor—“let the buyer beware.”
Jurisprudence also takes quite a different view of women who knowingly expose their unborn children to the risk of AIDS. From 1980-2007 at least 237 Canadian children were perinatally infected with AIDS, and 2,358 diagnosed as HIV-positive.
According to Dr. Catherine Hankins, a McGill University AIDS specialist, “Many women resume sex and take new lovers after they find out about their condition … doctors who ordered HIV-positive women not to have children are finding that the women eventually go ahead anyway, even though the risk of HIV transmission increases as the woman’s infection wears on.” Not one prosecution or effective restraint has ever been imposed on those irresponsible mothers.
So what’s the greater crime? To deceive an adult woman (or man), who cannot be ignorant today of the risk of sexually transmitted diseases, who knows how to protect herself from them and above all who has the right to say no to casual sex altogether and walk freely away? Or to “deceive” a baby who is ignorant of any risks, incompetent to protect itself and given no choice in the person with whom it exchanges bodily fluids?
Aziga’s moral crime was fraud with depraved indifference to human life, not murder, for which there must be intent. Two of Aziga’s 11 relevant sexual partners died of AIDS-related cancers. But four emerged virus-free. People with murder on their minds do not choose to play Russian roulette with their targets.
The sexual aspect is a red herring in this case. The crime is, or should be, knowingly passing a life-threatening infection to an innocent person by any means. The vehicle -penis, needle, amniotic sac—should be immaterial.
Let the punishment fit the crime, and let all who commit the crime be equally punished.