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Republic of Korea’s foreigners-only HIV tests violated New Zealand teacher’s rights – UN experts

GENEVA (20 May 2015) – A New Zealand woman’s rights were violated when her employers in the Republic of Korea demanded that, as a foreign English teacher, she undergo HIV/AIDS and drug tests as a condition of having her contract renewed, UN experts have found.

The Geneva-based Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) was considering the case of L.G., whose contract was not renewed in 2009 after she refused to undergo a secondary mandatory HIV test required only of foreigners, arguing it was ““discriminatory and an affront to her dignity”.

In their findings, CERD members noted that the Republic of Korea did not provide any reasons to justify the mandatory testing, from which Korean and ethnic Korea teachers were exempt*. They also noted that, during arbitration proceedings, L.G.’s employers, the Ulsan Metropolitan Office of Education (UMOE), said that HIV/AIDS tests were viewed as a means to check the values and morality of foreign English teachers.

The testing policy, the Committee wrote in its findings**, “does not appear to be justified on public health grounds or any other ground, and is a breach of the right to work without distinction to race, colour, national or ethnic origin.”

The Committee called on the Republic of Korea to grant L.G. adequate compensation for the moral and material damages she suffered. The Committee also urged the authorities to take steps to review regulations and policies related to the employment of foreigners and to abolish, in law and practice, any legislation which creates or perpetuates racial discrimination.

“The Committee recommends the State party to counter any manifestations of xenophobia, through stereotyping or stigmatizing, of foreigners by public officials, the media and the public at large,” members wrote. The Committee has asked the Republic of Korea to inform it within 90 days of the steps it has taken.

FURTHER INFORMATION:

* In its submission to the Committee, the Republic of Korea said that, since 2010, its guidelines on the employment of foreign teachers do not specify that they have to submit results of HIV/AIDS and drugs tests to have their contracts renewed, and that mandatory testing is no longer required by the UMOE.

**The Committee found that there had been a violation of article 2, paragraph 1 c and d; article 5 (e) and (i) and article 6. *The Committee’s views in full:
http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/CERD/Pages/Jurisprudence.aspx

Article 2

(c) Each State Party shall take effective measures to review governmental, national and local policies, and to amend, rescind or nullify any laws and regulations which have the effect of creating or perpetuating racial discrimination wherever it exists;

(d) Each State Party shall prohibit and bring to an end, by all appropriate means, including legislation as required by circumstances, racial discrimination by any persons, group or organization;

Article 5

In compliance with the fundamental obligations laid down in article 2 of this Convention, States Parties undertake to prohibit and to eliminate racial discrimination in all its forms and to guarantee the right of everyone, without distinction as to race, colour, or national or ethnic origin, to equality before the law, notably in the enjoyment of the following rights:
(e) (i): The rights to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work, to protection against unemployment, to equal pay for equal work, to just and favourable remuneration;

Article 6

States Parties shall assure to everyone within their jurisdiction effective protection and remedies, through the competent national tribunals and other State institutions, against any acts of racial discrimination which violate his human rights and fundamental freedoms contrary to this Convention, as well as the right to seek from such tribunals just and adequate reparation or satisfaction for any damage suffered as a result of such discrimination.

For more information and media requests, please contact Liz Throssell (+41 (0) 22 917 9466 / ethrossell@ohchr.org

More information about the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination:
http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/CERD/Pages/CERDIndex.aspx

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