Author: Farirai Sinothando Sibanda
Master’s Candidate, Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria
It is a gross injustice that disability rights in Africa have previously not been prioritised given that 80% of persons with disabilities live in developing countries. However, this situation seems to be gaining some attention with most African states having ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) with the exception of three, namely Cameroon, South Sudan and Eritrea. Following this trajectory, in 2018, the African Union (AU) member states adopted the African Disability Protocol which will enter into force after ratification by 15 AU member states. Despite its potential to enhance persons with disabilities’ enjoyment of their rights, as of March 2022, the African Disability Protocol has only been ratified by three countries namely; Mali, Kenya, and Rwanda which is disappointingly low.
The UNCRPD is a key instrument in advancing the rights of persons with disabilities, but it lacks the specificity to the African context. Due to poverty and other issues in Africa, the situation of persons with disabilities, especially women, differs radically from that in other regions. Article 6 of the UNCRPD addresses women in two general provisions by obligating states to protect them from discrimination, ensure enjoyment of their rights and empower them. However, it does not specify the actions that states must take to fulfil these obligations. Resultantly, the UNCRPD does not adequately address the unique situation of persons with disabilities in Africa.Read the rest of this entry »
When policy isn’t enough: Examining accessibility of sexual and reproductive health rights for displaced populations in South AfricaPosted: 21 December, 2020
Author: Lidya Stamper
Research Fellow, Centre of Human Rights, University of Pretoria
The right to sexual and reproductive health services (SRHS) is a fundamental human right for all, guaranteed under international human rights law. Legal protections outlining these rights have been recognised in South Africa through international, regional and domestic instruments. More specifically, these protections are highlighted and specified in documents such as the ‘Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women’ (CEDAW), the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (Maputo Protocol), and the 1996 Constitution of the Republic of South Africa. Despite the presence of these legal frameworks, outlining equality and non-discrimination, persistent inequalities continue to act as barriers to exercising SRHS. Legislative and policy advances in SRH have been undermined by a lack of successful implementation and improvements in service delivery, service accessibility, and service availability. Implementation challenges combined with a fragmented health sector have resulted in various obstacles including a lack of standardised care, gaps in the dissemination of information, overburdened health facilities, and provider opposition. Social conditions such as gender inequality, poor access to health services, and provider attitudes continue to reinforce these barriers, undermining many of the intended outcomes of the existing legislative and policy advances in the SRH realm.
Maternal mortality is one of the shocking failures of development and a dreadful social injustice. According to recent UN official figures, 536,000 women die every year during pregnancy and birth. This is one death every minute. Out of the 536,000 maternal deaths, 99% are experienced by women in developing countries. The highest maternal mortality rates are in Africa; with a lifetime risk of 1 in 16. Maternal death is often the result of policy decisions that directly or indirectly discriminate against women. Maternal death is also often an indication of inequalities between men and women in their enjoyment of the right to the highest attainable standard of health. Below I illustrate how other rights are either implicated by or essential in combating maternal mortality.
International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation: 6 February 2015
February 6 – the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation – is dedicated annually to making the world aware of the harmful effects of female genital mutilation or cutting (FGM/C) and to promote its eradication. FGM/C involves the partial or total removal of external female genitalia; a deep form of discrimination against women and girls, it directly violates their right to health, and physical integrity. The practice is rooted in cultural and religious beliefs of communities who perceive it as a social obligation to control female sexuality and ‘preserve or protect’ a woman’s chastity.
The most common form of FGM/C in Eritrea is ‘infubulation’. During the procedure, the child’s legs and hips are tied together to limit movement – often for several weeks afterward to allow healing. The age for circumcising of a girl varies amongst cultural groups, but can range from one month old to 15 years. A traditional circumciser commonly performs the act within communities; close relatives or neighbours can also act as circumcisers.