2012 Statement on February 4: African Women's Health and Rights Day

 

The Women’s Global Network for Reproductive Rights (WGNRR) stands in solidarity with African women across the continent, marking February 4th- the annual day of action to support, demand, and defend women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights.  

Women’s groups in countries all over Africa are mobilising for the recognition and respect of their sexual, reproductive and health rights; calling on their governments yet again to honour the human rights treaties to which they are signatories, to fully implement the ICPD Programme of Action, and the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (the Maputo Protocol).

Grave violations of sexual and reproductive rights are on-going in Africa despite multiple treaties, agreements, and protocols that have been agreed to, signed, and ratified by African states. The violations include:

  • Lack of access to essential sexual and reproductive health supplies and services including obstetric health services; consequently resulting in high mortality rates and obstetric fistula, as a result of ideological and religious pressure and/or conditionalities imposed by international financial institutions.
  • Systematic stigmatisation of HIV positive women, including targeted instances of forced sterilisation and coercive abortions
  • Lack of access to safe abortion services is the primary cause of maternal mortality in the continent. The inaccessibility of safe abortion services is exacerbated by the physical attacks, harassment, death threats and criminal charges directed at safe abortion providers or those who speak out in support of legal, safe and accessible abortion
  • Verbal assaults, physical attacks, sexual harassment, death threats and criminal charges are directed at those who challenge patriarchal cultural and social norms, such as polygamy, child marriage, and female genital mutilation;
  • Sexual violence against women, surrounded by a culture of impunity due to a lack of safe mechanisms for seeking justice and redress. In particular, increased militarisation of societies has resulted in grave violations of women’s bodies;
  • ‘Corrective’ rape and other forms of violence, arrests, torture, and murder targeting people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or intersex (LGBTI), and those who defend the rights of LGBTQI communities.
  • Continued lack of recognition of the sexual and reproductive needs and rights of diverse populations of marginalised peoples-including young people, people living with HIV/AIDS, people living with disabilities, minority ethnic populations, the LGBTQI communities, and sex workers.

As community advocates for women's human rights, and sexual rights and reproductive rights, we urge the African states to immediately prioritise the addressal of widespread violations of sexual and reproductive rights in their constituencies.

State parties to the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights are signatory to the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), the Convention Against Torture (CAT), the Covenants on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), as well as party to the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders and the Beijing Platform for Action.

Member states, therefore, have a legal and ethical obligation to ensure that all women’s human rights are recognised and respected; as well as exercised, including those to life, to be free from gendered violence, to the highest possible standards of health, and to be compensated when violations of these rights occur. In addition, we urge African state signatories to the Maputo Protocol, to follow through with their obligation to uphold the rights enshrined in this document.

The delay to take positive action has cost thousands of women’s lives; and continues to restrict access to holistic healthcare for African women and girls. Today, we stand together with women and girls all across Africa saying NO to further delay and YES to affirmative action towards recognition, respect, protection, and fulfilment of women’s sexual and reproductive rights. 


Women’s Global Network for Reproductive Rights (WGNRR)