5th Africa Conference on Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights

Posted by ARASA on September 5, 2012

5th Africa Conference on Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights





Sexual health and rights in Africa: Not far enough or fast enough to support the health of all citizens of the continent


Windhoek, 21 September – At the conclusion of the 5th Africa Conference on Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR), civil society representatives who gathered in Windhoek, Namibia this week called on African governments to take action to address challenges which hamper the realisation of sexual and reproductive health rights for Africans.


In 1994, African countries constituted the 179 countries, which agreed to implement the International Conference on Population & Development (ICPD) Programme of Action on gender equality, eliminating violence against women, women’s control over their fertility, and universal access to sexual and reproductive health (SRH) information and services. Almost two decades after this radical shift to a focus on individual needs and rights, SRHR indicators remain poor in eastern and southern Africa.


Since the ICPD, numerous global, continental and regional commitments that promote SRHR have been adopted. These include: the Fourth World Conference on Women (1995, Beijing); SADC Gender and Development Declaration (1997); The SADC Health Protocol (1999); the Millennium Development Goals (2000); United Nations General Assembly Special Session on HIV and AIDS (2001, New York); SADC Declaration on HIV/AIDS (2003, Maseru); The Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa June (2003); Maputo Declaration (2004); and The Maputo Plan of Action (2007).


While progress has been made on sexual health and rights on the continent, discussions held during the 3-day conference confirmed that this remains patchy, fragile and under constant threat. "Conventions and treaties related to sexual and reproductive health rights are not sufficiently domesticated, not sufficiently resourced and not sufficiently realised to fulfil the sexual and reproductive health and rights of Africa’s citizens,” explained Jonathan Gunthorp, Director of the Southern Africa AIDS Trust (SAT).


According to the World health Organisation (WHO) violence against women is at “crisis levels” in the region and constitutes a major public health problem. In addition, the unmet need for modern contraception in sub-Saharan Africa has increased to 36 million in 2012, and a woman in sub-Saharan Africa has a 1 in 16 chance of dying in pregnancy or childbirth compared to a 1 in 4000 risk in developed countries. Furthermore, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people are subject to violence, rape and assault on their lives in many countries in the region.


“The sexual and reproductive rights of women and girls, LGBT, people with disabilities, people living with HIV, sex workers, and other key populations are often unrealized, infringed and abused in eastern and southern Africa,” added Michaela Clayton, Director of the AIDS and Rights Alliance for Southern Africa (ARASA). “Services remain largely inaccessible or unavailable and attitudes of many service providers, communities and leaders perpetuate stigma, discrimination and exclusion”.


The delegates attending the conference agreed that the realisation of sexual and reproductive health rights is crucial to addressing HIV and AIDS in the region. “HIV and AIDS continue to fall disproportionately on women and girls. In southern Africa, young women are two to three times more likely to be HIV positive than young men,” explained Lois Chingandu, Director of the Southern Africa HIV and AIDS Information Dissemination Service (SafAIDS). “In sub-Saharan Africa, women account for approximately 60% of people living with HIV. This region also sees 28% of women below the age of 18 years giving birth to at least one child. And contraceptive use across the region sits at a low 18%. Maternal mortality remains a major killer of women in the region – the only region in the world where this mortality rate has continued to rise.”




The civil society groups[1] circulated a statement with a six point ‘Call to Action’ (attached) during the conference.




Six Point Call to Action




We call on our governments, international organisations, the UN agencies, development partners, African Union, SADC, EAC and all organisations of civil society across the continent to take the following actions:


  1. Affirm that women’s and the girl child’s rights, gender equality and sexual and reproductive rights for all people without discrimination are central to achieving sustainable health outcomes in Africa.
  2. Affirm that an integrated approach to HIV and SRHR is essential to effective responses.
  3. Recognise that the sexual and reproductive health and rights agenda must shift beyond a limited focus on reproductive health, towards meaningfully including sexual health and sexual rights for all.
  4. Speed up the domestication and resourcing of international, continental and regional policies, including the Maputo Plan of Action for SRHR, and implement national laws to address the SRH rights and needs of women, girl children, adolescents, youth and other key populations (including but not limited to LGBT, sex workers, and people with disabilities).
  5. Report on national and regional progress in SRHR in collaborative and transparent ways.
  6. Ensure that young women and adolescents have access to comprehensive and age-appropriate sexuality education and youth-friendly sexual health services and that the sexual and reproductive rights of positive adolescents are addressed.


The 5th Africa Conference on Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights will take place from 19 to 22 September, 2012 at Safari Hotel and Court in Windhoek. It will be fifth African conference of its kind and will aim to shine a special focus on the rights of women, girls, adolescents and youth, and key populations at higher risk of HIV and AIDS.





For more information on the conference please contact:

Felicita Hikuam or Sirka Amaambo 

AIDS and Rights Alliance for Southern Africa                                                            

felicita@arasa.info  or sirka@arasa.info