Banning female circumcision in The Gambia through legislative change: The next steps

satang_nabanehAuthor: Satang Nabaneh
Lecturer at the Faculty of Law, University of The Gambia.

There is nothing more powerful than a decision made at the right time, especially one which is a desideratum. So it was with the ban on female genital mutilation (FGM) in The Gambia. From the coastal village of Brufut, on the chilly night of 24 November 2015, President Jammeh declared a ban on FGM stating that it was a cultural and not a religious practice (that is not to say that the practice would have been justifiable if it was a religious practice, given its well documented harmful effects). The news was as unexpected as it was music to the ear. It was every campaigner’s wish, to see an end to FGM in The Gambia. This was swiftly followed by the passing of the Women’s (Amendment) Bill 2015 by the National Assembly on 2 December 2015 to prohibit female circumcision. The amendment addresses one of the key deficiencies of the Women’s Act 2010 which was the absence of a provision on eliminating harmful traditional practices. The Amendment Act added sections 32A and 32B in the Women’s Act. With the enactment, The Gambia joined a number of African countries in adopting legislation as a reform strategy for ending FGM.

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Realising the right to health for children with HIV/AIDS in Botswana: Policy based approach v rights based approach

Rashid DumbuyaAuthor: Rashid Dumbuya
LLM (Human Rights and Democratisation in Africa) candidate, Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria, South Africa; Barrister and Solicitor, Sierra Leone

Botswana faces significant challenges on the HIV/AIDS epidemic. According to the third Botswana AIDS Impact Survey (BAIS III) which took place in 2008, 17.6% of Batswana were living with HIV/AIDS. The survey revealed that about 18 000 children below the age of 19 were HIV positive.

Strong political commitment at national level has however resulted in impressive scale up in HIV treatment for children under the Prevention of Mother-to-child Transmission programme. Children are currently treated in about 33 centres issuing antiretroviral drugs. However, Baylor Children’s Clinical Centre of Excellence provides a more in-depth pediatric content. There are also community-based non-governmental organisations (NGOs) such as Child Line, Mpule Kwelagobe Centre, SOS Children’s Home and Paolo Zanichelli Children’s Centre that are currently providing specialised services to vulnerable children. It is however important to point out that, in Botswana, the needs of HIV/AIDS affected children are not provided for in a comprehensive National legal framework. Care and treatment for children with HIV is currently addressed in overall HIV policy guidelines.

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The Zimbabwean government’s measures to address maternal mortality have little prospects of success

linettedutoitAuthor: Linette du Toit
LLM (Human Rights and Democratisation in Africa) candidate, Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria, South Africa

It is a universal and timeless reality that women face the risk of death in the process of giving life. In recent years, this risk has been virtually eliminated for those who have access to the necessary prenatal care and emergency medical assistance. Contrary to the global trend, Zimbabwe has seen a stark increase in its number of maternal deaths and currently sits with a figure that is 50% higher than the sub-Saharan average.

This state of affairs is not surprising in light of the disintegrated nature of Zimbabwe’s public health system, which reached its lowest point in 2008. At that time, government policies led to the closure of public hospitals and a medical school in Harare. Basic resources and emergency care have not been consistently available and the government’s failure to remunerate healthcare professionals with set salaries left many of them with no choice but to leave the country. The continuing epidemic of deaths which could have been prevented indicates an alarming disregard for a variety of rights and obligations on the part of the Zimbabwean government. Questions arise as to whether the government is taking appropriate measures to address the plight of Zimbabwean women.

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Recognising the struggle – Kenya’s award on reproductive health rights

Tabitha GriffithAuthor: Saoyo Tabitha Griffith
Advocate, High Court of Kenya

Sometime in May 2013, the Republic of Kenya, together with two of her counterparts, Zambia and The Gambia, received the prestigious Resolve Award from the Global Leaders Council for Reproductive Health. Briefly, the Resolve Award was launched in 2011 as an annual award issued by the Aspen Institute. The Award recognises countries that are surmounting various challenges to bring essential reproductive health services to their people and celebrates progress made by governments towards delivering on the promise of universal access to reproductive health. We must therefore begin by celebrating our nation’s achievement. Indeed, impressing a Council comprising of 18 sitting and former heads of states amongst others, the Honourable Mary Robinson, Her Excellency Joyce Banda, Honourable Gro Harlem, Vice Admiral Regina Benjamin and Honourable Tarja Haloren is by no means an easy step.

The Award comes at an opportune time when mothers all over Kenya are celebrating the reprieve granted by the Jubilee Coalition which on 1 June 2013 issued a directive waiving all fees payable by mothers for maternal services at public health facilities. In recent times, we have in addition seen other efforts by the Kenyan government aimed at transforming access to reproductive health services and lowering maternal mortality. First, there is the constitutional recognition of reproductive health as a fundamental human right under Article 43(1)(a). There is also the enactment of many visionary policies and guidelines, including the National Reproductive Health Policy and the comprehensive Population Policy for National Development which places family planning at the centre of Kenya’s development agenda. Additionally, there is also the Child Survival and Development Strategy and the National Road Map for accelerating the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) related to maternal and newborn health in Kenya.

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Ensuring access to essential medicines through the inclusion of the right to health in the Mauritian Constitution

ashwanee_budooAuthor: Ashwanee Budoo
Full-time candidate for the Law Practitioners Vocational Course in Mauritius

The right to health is protected by various international and regional instruments such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (article 25), the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) (article 12) and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (article 16) and being a party to these instruments, Mauritius has the obligation to ensure that its citizens’ right to health is protected. One aspect of the right to health is the right to access essential medicines. Essential medicines have been defined by the World Health Organisation as those which satisfy the health care needs of a majority of the population. In view of fulfilling this right Mauritius, a welfare state, provides for free essential medicines in government hospitals, area health centres and community health centres.

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