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UNFPA Global Population Policy Update
Laws and Polices in the African Union, Chad and Mexico
ISSUE 7 - 19 August 2003
Following the International Parliamentarians’ Conference on the Implementation of the ICPD Programme of Action (21-22 November 2002, Ottawa), UNFPA continues to highlight worldwide events pertaining to the creation of an enabling environment for ICPD implementation at the national level. This issue of the newsletter includes laws and policies relating to sexual and reproductive health/rights and gender issues that were recently enacted or are being deliberated in the African Union, Chad and Mexico.
African Union Enacts Protocol Safeguarding African Women’s Human Rights
On 11 July 2003, the African Union adopted the Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa, a supplement to 1981’s African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. The Protocol, which will take effect once it has been ratified by fifteen African States, provides broad protection for African women’s human rights. The Protocol’s extensive guarantees include a provision requiring States to “ensure that the right to health of women, including sexual and reproductive health, is respected and promoted.” Specific rights include the freedom to: control one’s fertility; determine the number and spacing of one’s children; choose any method of contraception; protect oneself and be protected against sexually transmitted infections, including HIV/AIDS; have access to family planning education; and receive information about one’s health status and the health status of one’s partner. Under the Protocol, States are called upon to provide adequate, affordable and accessible health services. They must establish or strengthen pre-natal, delivery and post-natal health and nutritional services for women. States must also protect women’s reproductive rights by authorizing abortion in cases of sexual assault, rape and incest, and where the continued pregnancy endangers the mental and physical health of a woman or the life of the woman or the fetus. The Protocol calls upon States to “prohibit and condemn” harmful practices negatively affecting women’s human rights, including female genital cutting. It guarantees women’s right to consent to marriage and sets the minimum age of marriage at 18. Among other provisions, the Protocol calls upon States to protect women during armed conflicts, ensure women’s access to food and adequate housing, eliminate discrimination against women in accessing education, promote equality in the workplace and guarantee women’s right to inherit property.
Chad Adopts Law Guaranteeing Basic Reproductive Rights
On 15 April 2002, the Republic of Chad adopted Law No. 66/PR/2002 on the Promotion of Reproductive Health. The Law incorporates the broad concept of reproductive health affirmed in Paragraph 7.2 of the Cairo Programme of Action. It guarantees enjoyment of several basic reproductive rights, including the right to non-discrimination on the basis of age, sex, financial means, religion, ethnicity, marital status or any other grounds; free choice in matters of marriage and family; independent decision-making regarding reproductive health and the number and spacing of one’s children; access to information and education on family planning methods; access to safe, effective and affordable local health care services of the highest caliber; and freedom from harmful practices, torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, particularly with regard to a person’s reproductive organs. The latter protection specifies that harmful traditional practices, including female genital cutting and early marriage, and all forms of aggression, including domestic violence and sexual cruelty, are prohibited. The Law obligates all individuals to contribute to the well-being of those in their care. It places responsibility for implementation of the right to reproductive health with the State, the decentralized local authorities and private individuals through their political representatives. Other provisions relate to reproductive health care personnel and the professional norms regulating their work.
The Law lists the following interventions as “reproductive health services”: all services related to family planning, including outreach, education, research and distribution of contraceptive methods; pre-natal, delivery and post-natal care; prevention and treatment of sterility, infertility and impotence; prevention of abortion and care for its complications; reproductive tract disorders; and the prevention and care of sexually transmitted infections, including HIV/AIDS. Individuals living with HIV/AIDS are entitled to basic care and are guaranteed confidentiality. According to the Law, willful transmission of HIV/AIDS is a crime. The Law rejects abortion as a family planning method, but authorizes its practice when a pregnancy threatens the life or health of a woman and when the fetus has been diagnosed with a grave disorder. Pregnancy termination on authorized grounds requires approval from a medical council following notice to a judge. The Law also authorizes care for assisted reproduction.
Mexico Issues Recommendation on Family Planning Rights for Indigenous Communities
On 16 December 2002, the Human Rights Commission of Mexico issued Recommendation No. 4 on administrative practices that violate the human rights of indigenous peoples. This Recommendation stems from the Human Rights Commission’s conclusion that indigenous peoples were having their reproductive rights violated with respect to free and informed consent on family planning methods. Indigenous peoples were threatened with loss of government benefits if they did not adopt specific contraceptive measures. They were offered economic rewards for adopting these measures, and were subjected to contraceptive measures either without consenting or without being informed of the alternatives and benefits, risks and side effects to such measures. The Commission recommended: 1) that health authorities consider equality of gender and indigenous customs in implementing measures to facilitate, guarantee and respect the rights of family planning users to free choice and informed consent; 2) the adoption of administrative measures to formulate and disseminate clear and accurate information materials in indigenous languages that help rural medical services explain sexual and reproductive rights; 3) that health personnel certify that no coercion or concealment of information has been employed in guiding and counseling indigenous peoples about family planning methods and that the acceptance of these methods occasions no reward; and 4) that medical personnel training reinforce human rights and examine indigenous cultural and social characteristics to improve the treatment, quality of services offered and respect for the dignity of indigenous family planning users. The Recommendation requests various authorities to provide evidence of compliance with the specific recommendations within 30 days of its issuance.
This newsletter is issued by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in its capacity as secretariat for the International Parliamentarians’ Conference on the Implementation of the ICPD Programme of Action (November 2002, Ottawa, Canada). These dispatches are intended to highlight important developments taking place around the world so that parliamentarians can be kept informed of and learn from the successes, setbacks and challenges encountered by their fellow parliamentarians in other countries and regions in their efforts to promote the implementation of the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development (September 1994, Cairo, Egypt). It should be noted that UNFPA does not necessarily endorse all of the policies described in this newsletter.
Thanks to Center for Reproductive Rights and Harvard University School of Public Health for their contributions to the content of this newsletter.
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