Values, Policies and Rights

Gender based violence and the risk of HIV infection

Gender-based violence and gender inequality are increasingly cited as important determinants of women's HIV risk; yet empirical research on possible connections remains limited. No study on women has yet assessed gender-based violence as a risk factor for HIV after adjustment for women's own high-risk behaviours, although these are known to be associated with experience of violence. Women with violent or controlling male partners are at increased risk of HIV infection. Research suggests that abusive men are more likely to have HIV and impose risky sexual practices on partners. Research on connections between social constructions of masculinity, intimate partner violence, male dominance in relationships, and HIV risk behaviours in men, as well as effective interventions, are urgently needed. (Access to this article requires registration.)

Globalization, Health, WHO and IMF/WB

The World Health Organisation should be faithful to its Constitution, making health care and access to health care a human right, confronting powerful governments including the US government, which is in clear violation of the WHO Charter's instruction that member countries should ensure their citizens' access to health care in time of need. WHO should regain its credibility and moral standing, and could include growing movements of protest such as the anti-globalisation movement that are providing pointers to another possible world. Membership of WHO should be conditional on governments' acceptance of a whole set of principles and practices, including the promotion of health as a human right and the obligations deriving from this right. This is according to an article "The world situation and WHO", published in the Lancet.

Health research and human rights in South Africa

The death of apartheid - symbolised by the multiracial elections in South Africa on April 27, 1994 - was a defining moment of the 20th century. The tenth anniversary of this event is a time to consider how well the post-apartheid government is fostering health and human rights through reforms in health research policy. The realisation of health care depends, to an extent, on the formulation of a rational and responsive national research agenda; this has proven a challenge in post-apartheid South Africa. Notwithstanding its laudable attempts to redress the country's skewed national health research agenda, only when the South African government commits itself to transparent, competent research leadership free of ideological bias will the country truly graduate from erstwhile pariah nation to celebrated champion of health and human rights. (This article requires registration.)

Call for Action on HIV/AIDS-related Human Rights Abuses against Women and Girls in Africa

This report from Human Rights Watch details cases of abuse of women and girls that increase susceptibility to HIV/AIDS. It reviews regional and national legal regimes and makes recommendations for policy action against manifestations of HIV/AIDS human rights abuses against women and girls. The cases demonstrate that the illness, mortality, abuse, and stigma associated with HIV/AIDS are due, to a large extent, to a long tradition of subordination and violent abuse of women and girls in Africa. It argues that reformed national laws and policies to date have not been effective in counteracting this tradition and abusive practices condoned in customary law have exacerbated the problem.

Using the constitution for social justice in Africa

Zackie Achmat, the leader of the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC), spoke at the Centre for Civil Society's first Harold Wolpe Memorial lecture for 2004. Achmat is famous for his passionate advocacy for wider access to HIV treatment in South Africa and globally. Strategic use of South Africa's Constitutional provision for the right to access to health care has always been key to TAC's campaigns. As South Africa moves towards celebrating ten years of a constitutional democracy, it was apt that such a high-profile civil society leader discussed the use of the constitution as a tactic to engage with the government on development issues. In this review, the authors summarise Achmat's talk, the interesting critiques from the floor and offer their own critical analysis of the lecture and discussion which followed it.

Basic services, democracy and human rights
Seminar report

The challenge for human rights academics, activists, and advocates is to make human rights relevant to the issue of privatisation of basic services. The human rights framework must be used to ensure that privatising basic services does not result in the denial of rights. This was identified as one of the challenges at a seminar hosted by the Socio-Economic Rights Project and the Local Government Project of the Community Law Centre on 2–3 October 2003, at the University of the Western Cape. The seminar looked at the privatisation of basic services, democracy and human rights. The need for collaborative efforts with social movements and community organisations for effective use of legal strategies in challenging ill-planned privatisation policies was emphasised.

Health and Human Rights Publication
An International Journal Announcement

The FXB Centre has published Health and Human Rights since 1994. The journal explores the reciprocal influences of health and human rights, including the impact public health programs and policies have on human rights, the consequences human rights violations have on health, the importance of health in realizing human rights, and the ways in which human rights can be integrated into public health strategies. Health and Human Rights may provide free or reduced-price, two-year subscriptions for individuals in developing countries upon request. Some institutions in developing countries - NGOs, universities, and libraries with restricted budgets - may also be eligible for a free or reduced-price subscription.

Not a minute more: Ending violence against women

Violence against women has become as much a pandemic as HIV/AIDS or malaria. But it is still generally downplayed by the public at large and by policymakers who fail to create and fund programmes to eradicate it. However, the achievements over the last few decades of women and men around the world who have worked to combat violence against women and promote women's empowerment are monumental. This report from Unifem also includes a focus on the problem of violence against women as a violation of human rights as well as a public health issue. "In the last decade, gender-based violence moved from the shadows to the foreground. It is increasingly recognized as a violation of human rights, as a public health problem and as a crime against women and society," says the report.

The domains of health responsiveness: a human rights analysis

Human rights and the domains of health system responsiveness share a common goal: furthering the rights of individuals and communities in the context of the health system. If a health system is responsive, it is possible that the interactions which people have within the health system will improve their well-being, irrespective of improvements to their health. This brief report from the World Health Organisation’s Evidence and Information for Policy cluster discusses the human rights context to the provision of health services to the public.

A prescription for gender, health, and human rights
Rosalind Pollack Petchesky. London: Zed Press, 2003.

In order to understand how and why social movements are fighting for women's health and rights you need to have a 21st century notion of these rights. This is a central message of the book Global Prescriptions: Gendering Health and Human Rights. The rights that Rosalind Pollack Petchesky discusses are not those determined by grey-suited lawyers and bureaucrats, and enshrined as fixed, universal, and unalienable principles. They are rights that exist in an era of global capitalism; rights that are influenced by sex, race, class, geography, and ethnicity; rights that are dynamic and malleable; and rights that, above all, are a necessary and irrepressible element of movements for social change. Petchesky views individual and social rights as "two sides of the same coin". She ascribes equal importance to social and economic rights as to those related to reproduction, sexuality, and health; noting that together they form "a single fabric of rights".