When policy isn’t enough: Examining accessibility of sexual and reproductive health rights for displaced populations in South Africa

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.

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Extending sexual health and reproductive rights through the Court: Analysis and lessons from FIDA – Kenya & Ors v The Attorney General & Ors High Court Petititon No 266 of 2015

Author: Nimrod Muhumuza
Lawyer and LLD candidate, Dullah Omar Institute, University of Western Cape

On 3 December 2013 and 24 February 2014, the Kenyan Director of Medical Services respectively withdrew the 2012 Standards and Guidelines for Reducing Morbidity and Mortality from Unsafe Abortion in Kenya, and the National Training Curriculum for the Management of Unintended, Risky and Unplanned Pregnancies.

In June 2018, JMM, at just 18 years of age, died as a result of a botched abortion in an attempt to terminate a pregnancy resulting from rape. Activists and JMM’s mother petitioned the High Court of Kenya linking the withdrawal of the guidelines to JMM’s death which they argued was a violation of her right to life, and her right to health. It would be first time under the new 2010 Constitution of Kenya that Court would flesh out the application of sexual and reproductive health rights, particularly the right to abortion, to a particular demographic: teenage girls from economically and socially impoverished backgrounds. The Court also had to determine, if it found that JMM’s rights had been violated, the appropriate remedies available to the petitioners. Read the rest of this entry »


Embracing teenage sexuality: Let’s rethink the age of consent in Kenya

william_asekaAuthor: William Aseka
Human Rights Lawyer

When the Court of Appeal in Eliud Waweru Wambui v Republic Criminal Appeal No 102 of 2016, raised the issue of reducing the age of consent for adolescent, there was panic in the whole country. Everyone including leading renowned children rights advocates rejected this idea even without reading the judgment of the court. The judges in this case stated it is rather immature for adults to think that ‘teenagers and maturing adults, do not engage in, and often seek sexual activity with their eyes fully open’. The judges were of the opinion that even though teenagers might not have attained the age of majority, they may have ‘reached the age of discretion’. However, before this case, the High Court in CKW v Attorney General & Director of Public Prosecution stated that the offense of defilement under the Section 8 of the Sexual Offences Act is for the best interest of the child. In CKW case, unlike the Eliud Waweru the accused was a teenager like the victim. In fact, at the time of the offense occurring, both parties were sixteen years of age. The stark reality is that a consensual sexual relationship between two 16-year-olds is a criminal offense in Kenya. These draconian and puritanical laws are largely the product of a conservative political culture that has transformed the fight against child molestation into a full-blown war on teenage sexuality. We now live in a moral milieu so toxic and muddled that we lump together as “sex offenders” teenagers who send nude photos to each other with clergymen who rape toddlers. A first step toward reversing this madness — and actually protecting the health and safety of teenagers — would be to revise the age of consent downward to a threshold in accordance with those of other nations.

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