The Role of National Human Rights Institutions in Advancing Sexual and Reproductive Health

Sexual and reproductive health is a fundamental human right as well as human development issue that states must strive to fulfil. It is guaranteed in various international and regional human rights instruments as well as national laws and policies. This was true at the recent Regional Colloquium on The Role of National Human Rights Institutions in Advancing Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights in East and Southern Africa Regions.

The Regional Colloquium, which took place on 19 – 20 October 2017 in Johannesburg, was organised by Dullar Omar Institute in conjunction with the Kenya Legal and Ethical Issues Network on HIV and AIDS (KELIN) and the Initiative for Strategic Litigation in Africa (ISLA)

Participants acknowledged that while issues relating to sexual and reproductive health and rights remain contested in many parts of the world including Africa, however, recent developments such as: the adoption of the Maputo Protocol; resolutions and communications by the African Commission; adoption of SADC Gender Protocol; Model laws on HIV and child marriage; and the EAC HIV and AIDS Prevention and Management Act, provide great opportunities to further advance the SRHR of women in EAC and SADC regions.

While there are no specific human rights instruments dedicated to the advancement of sexual and reproductive rights under international law, various human rights instruments recognise in one form or another aspects of sexual and reproductive health and rights. In essence, sexual and reproductive health and rights are not new sets of right rather they are rights already recognised in human rights instruments (Paragraph 7.3 of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) Programme of Action), which states are expected to respect, protect, promote and fulfil.

National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) call play an important role in advancing SRHR at the national level by exercising their promotion and protection mandate towards sexual and reproductive rights.

The colloquium consisted  30 participants representing personnel of NHRIs from Namibia, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania as well as civil society organisations, academia and activists.