African Union member states must protect sexual and reproductive rights
The African Union must emphasise the obligation of its member states to promote, protect, and fulfil sexual and reproductive rights, including universal access to sexual and reproductive health, Amnesty International said today as the 25th AU summit got underway in Johannesburg, with a focus on “Women Empowerment and Development towards Agenda 2063.”
The organisation believes that universal access to sexual and reproductive health and rights are essential to achieving gender equality and women’s empowerment, reduce poverty and achieve the development goals of both the post-2015 agenda and Africa’s Agenda 2063
“The AU has made welcome commitments to campaign to end child marriage, and the reduction of maternal, newborn and child mortality in Africa. However, women and girls, in particular those living in poverty and in conflict, face multiple barriers to accessing the sexual and reproductive health-related information and services they need, putting their lives at risk,” said Louise Carmody, Researcher for Amnesty International.
Amnesty International has documented barriers to potentially life-saving maternal health services, such as antenatal care and access to emergency treatment for pregnant women and girls in countries across the continent, including South Africa, Zimbabwe, Burkina Faso and Sierra Leone.
2016 is the African Year of Human Rights with particular focus on the rights of women, and the obligation on member states is to ensure that focus includes sexual and reproductive rights.
Human rights of women and girls include their right to have control over and decide freely on matters related to their sexuality, free from coercion, discrimination and violence. It also includes the right to decide whether and when to have children and the spacing between children, and to the highest standard of physical and mental health, including sexual and reproductive health.
African States have signalled their commitment to redouble their efforts to promote and protect women’s sexual and reproductive rights as enshrined in the Solemn Declaration on Gender Equality in Africa (2004) and the Continental Guiding Framework for the Advancement of Sexual and Reproductive Rights in Africa (2006), among others.
Despite these promises, women and girl’s control over their sexuality and reproductive lives and access to comprehensive sexuality education remain contentious as states often differ in their views and approaches on these issues.
“The AU must commit to protecting women and girls through creating conditions for all to enjoy access to sexual and reproductive rights across the continent. Sexual and reproductive rights are human rights and are non-negotiable,” said Louise Carmody.
Amnesty International is also calling for the inclusion of women and girls in the formulation of policies affecting their sexuality and reproduction and have access to justice and redress for violations of their sexual and reproductive rights.
Amnesty International, through its My Body My Rights campaign, is campaigning to ensure that everyone, particularly women and girls, has access to their sexual and reproductive rights and to stop criminalization of sexuality and reproduction by governments. Through the action, the organisation has sought to ensure that women and girls have a right to seek and receive information about sexuality and reproduction and access related health services and contraception.
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