Achieving Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) is a Human Right Obligation for Africa
Women’s and adolescents’ sexual and reproductive health is related to multiple human rights, including the right to life, the right to be free from torture, the right to health, the right to privacy, the right to education, and the prohibition of discrimination. Violation of SRHR is a violation of all other human rights.
SRHR includes efforts to ensure quality sexual and reproductive health services, access to contraceptive services, address sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and cervical cancer, violence against women and girls, and sexual and reproductive health needs of women and adolescents.
The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) have both clearly indicated that women’s right to health includes their sexual and reproductive health. Additionally, Besides the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, The Maputo Protocol explicitly articulates women and girls’ right to health, including SRH and their reproductive rights.
In the face of these obligations, violations of women’s sexual and reproductive health rights still occur. These take many forms including denial of access to services for women, poor quality services, performance of procedures related to women’s reproductive and sexual health without the woman’s consent, including forced sterilization, forced virginity examinations forced abortion and subjecting women and girls to harmful culture’s that put their health at risk such as female genital mutilation (FGM) and early marriage.
At IPPFAR, through our various programs, we strive to protect SRHR for women and adolescents across Africa. We realize the challenges that women, girls and adolescents face while accessing SRH information and services. Challenges ranging from economic, socio-cultural to political. While we recognize other embryonic issues that impede realization of SRHR such as; arrests, legal disputes, government decrees, safety and security for human rights defenders, loss of lives, physical and psychological trauma caused on vulnerable and marginalized groups, we are still committed to employing apt right-based approaches to promote dignity and eliminate stigma.
For instance, our Right Here Right Now (RHRN)project, besides establishing a safety protocol for frontline defenders, a framework for counselling and offering psychosocial support, evacuation and safe houses initiatives, the project focuses on strengthening Meaningful and Inclusive Youth Participation by putting young people on the forefront as champions in advocating for adolescents and young peoples SRHR.
RHRN further holds governments accountable for their adoption of progressive and inclusive policies for the implementation of comprehensive sexuality education and youth-friendly SRH services.
In the same vein, our State of African Women Campaign(SOAWC) project recognizes the existing gaps that hinder passing and domestication of laws and provides insight into contextualization and harmonization of continental commitments on women and girls’ SRHR by fast-tracking the implementation of the Maputo Protocol and the Maputo Plan of Action (MPoA) at continental, regional, national and subnational level. Informing the campaign is the State of African Women Report that was launched this year in July. The report provides an analysis of gaps and opportunities in the implementation of continental commitments and realization of women’s and girls’ rights in SRHR.
Violations of women’s sexual and reproductive health rights are often deeply engrained in societal values pertaining to women’s sexuality. Patriarchal concepts of women’s roles within the family mean that women are often valued based on their ability to reproduce. Early marriage and pregnancy, or repeated pregnancies spaced too closely together, often as the result of efforts to produce male offspring because of the preference for sons, has a devastating impact on women’s health with sometimes fatal consequences. Women are also often blamed for infertility, suffering ostracism and being subjected to various human rights violations as a result.
Moreover, neglect and violation of women and girls SRHR constrain their opportunities and participation in the public and private spheres including in education, economic and political life.
CEDAW (article 16) guarantees women equal rights in deciding “freely and responsibly on the number and spacing of their children and to have access to the information, education and means to enable them to exercise these rights.” CEDAW (article 10) also specifies that women’s right to education includes “access to specific educational information to help to ensure the health and well-being of families, including information and advice on family planning.”
Universal access to sexual and reproductive health for women and girls is essential not only to achieve sustainable development but also as a basis to their enjoyment of other human rights.