Values, Policies and Rights

Women's rights take one step forward, two steps back
IRIN News: 16 June 2010

Much to the frustration of gender activists, Swaziland's Supreme Court has reversed a February 2010 High Court ruling that allowed a married woman to register property in her own name. Activist Mary-Joyce Doo Aphane wished to register a house in her own name and challenged the country's 1968 Deeds Registry Act. She was granted a High Court order declaring the section unconstitutional. Yet three months later, the Supreme Court suppressed the High Court judgment. Although the Constitution grants men and women equal rights, in practice the old laws on the statute books still define gender relations in this absolute monarchy. According to the authors, not having property rights means many women are not able to leave abusive husbands because it would mean they have nowhere to live, no money and no family support. The Attorney General's office, which drafts legislation for parliamentary consideration, would not comment on its timeframe for revising the property law, and most gender activists remain sceptical that the deadline set by the Supreme Court will be met by parliament.

Women, abortion and the new technical and policy guidance from WHO
Fathalla MF and Cook RJ: Bulletin of the World Health Organisation 90(9): 712, September 2012

This editorial welcomes the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) update of its 2003 publication ‘Safe abortion: Technical and policy guidance for health systems’. In updating its guidance on safe abortion, WHO has responded to a major neglected public health need of women, Fathalla and Cook argue here. Unsafe induced abortion is not only a public health problem, it is also a human rights issue. As governments are obligated by their national constitutions or by legally binding international human rights conventions to protect the right to the highest attainable standard of health, they should be increasingly applying human rights principles to facilitate women’s transparent access to safe abortion services in their countries. The WHO update highlights the growing trend for national courts and regional and international human rights bodies, including the United Nations treaty monitoring bodies, to take a rights-based approach to this issue. The authors call for abortion to be decriminalised, as well as for further research aimed at developing simpler, improved methods for performing induced abortion.

Women’s and children’s health: From pledges to action
Bustreo F and Frenk J: Bulletin of the World Health Organization 88:798, November 2010

The United Nations Global Strategy for Women's and Children's Health, together with the African Union’s commitment to deliver a coordinated campaign to improving maternal, child and newborn health and the G8’s commitment of US$5 billion, form part of a global strategy to save 16 million mothers and children by 2015. The strategy, according to this article, aims to integrate service delivery and funding platforms, involving a wide range of stakeholders, research and innovation, and track progress through an accountability framework. Planned outcomes include: 43 million new users having access to comprehensive family planning and 19 million more women giving birth attended by a skilled health worker with access to necessary infrastructure, drugs, equipment and regulations. The strategy is designed to ensure that 2.2 million additional neonatal infections are treated, 21.9 million additional infants are breastfed, 15.2 million more children are fully immunised in the first year of life and that 117 million more children aged less than five years receive vitamin A supplements. To deliver these interventions, 85,000 more health facilities and up to 3.5 million additional health workers are needed.

Women’s empowerment lifts obstacles to achieving development goals, Ban says
United Nations News Centre: 3 March 2010

More than a decade after world leaders agreed to eliminate all forms of discrimination against women, their empowerment remains a necessary element in attaining development targets, said United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, addressing the Commission on the Status of Women in the run-up to International Women’s Day, which is observed annually on 8 March. ‘Until women and girls are liberated from poverty and injustice, all our goals – peace, security, sustainable development – stand in jeopardy,’ Ban said. This year is the 15th anniversary of the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action – the outcome of the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995 – which remains the most comprehensive global policy framework to achieve the goals of gender equality, development and peace. In September 2009, it was announced that four UN agencies and offices – including the UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) – will be amalgamated to create a new single entity within the world body to promote the rights and well-being of women worldwide and to work towards gender equality. Mr Ban urged the General Assembly to adopt a resolution ‘without delay’ to set up this new entity.

Women’s Empowerment Principles
GROW: Oxfam, 17 May 2013

While gender equality is enshrined in the 1948 UN Declaration of Human Rights, in the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and in legislation in most countries, women’s conditions of participation in markets and their rewards from that participation, still remain woefully unequal to men’s. Many women work in temporary or informal positions and are therefore “invisible” to laws and regulations. Women also currently bear a disproportionate share of household and domestic labour performing 80% of unpaid care work. Business can’t solve all these problems alone, but corporate practice can either, aggravate and perpetuate gender inequality, or it can help lead the way to for equality among men and women. This article discusses the Women’s Empowerment Principles, which are a set of Principles for business offering guidance on how to empower women in the workplace, marketplace and community. The seven principles are: 1. Establish high-level corporate leadership for gender equality. 2. Treat all women and men fairly at work – respect and support human rights and non-discrimination. 3. Ensure the health, safety and well-being of all women and men workers. 4. Promote education, training and professional development for women. 5. Implement enterprise development, supply chain and marketing practices that empower women. 6. Promote equality through community initiatives and advocacy. 7. Measure and publicly report on progress to achieve gender equality.

World Intellectual Property Day: Are women in Uganda being priced out of life-saving medicine due to Intellectual Property Rights?
Lumbasi A: Centre for Health, Human Rights & Development, 2018

Although intellectual property (IP) Rights are intended to promote innovation and creativity, the author argues that they act as barriers for access to essential medicines as they create monopolies for pharmaceutical manufacturers who charge exorbitant prices, making these medicines out of reach for many especially in least developed countries. According to 2016 health data compiled by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation , HIV was ranked number one cause for premature death in Uganda. Moreover women, in particular, were disproportionately affected in comparison to men. Many of the medicines they need are noted to be under patent protection and expensive for those who need them, as inventors seek to make a return on the high costs of research and development. The author proposes that the solution to this lies in the effective utilization of provisions incorporated in the WTO- Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Agreement, commonly referred to as the TRIPS flexibilities. One flexibility is compulsory licensing which allows third parties to use an invention without the holders’ consent. Another is parallel importation which allows procurement of drugs at a lower price from another country without consent of a patent holder of a patented product that is on the market of the exporting country. A further flexibility is the exemption of least developed countries from enforcing pharmaceutical patents until 2033 which can be exploited to promote transfer of technology. The author regards it as imperative to think of those women who are unable to access essential medicines due to their high cost caused by the strict enforcement of IP Rights.

World Malaria Day 2015: Invest in the Future, Defeat Malaria
Mosca D; Motus N: International Labour Organisation for Migration, April 2015

In 2013, there were about 198 million malaria cases in the world and an estimated 584,000 deaths from the disease. The countries endemic for malaria are also some of the poorest countries in the world. The burden of malaria on the poor, including migrants and displaced populations in these countries further fuels the cycle of poverty. IOM works with governments and partners, mostly in Africa and Asia, to ensure universal access to health care, including malaria prevention, early diagnosis, and treatment services among migrants and hard-to-reach populations. This year’s theme for World Malaria Day on April 25th was 'Invest in the Future: Defeat Malaria'. It focused on reaching 2015 malaria targets in all malaria-endemic countries, as well as scaling up efforts in malaria elimination and control beyond 2015.

World Medical Association resolution on health and human rights in Zimbabwe
World Medical Association, 2007

At the 2007 World Medical Association (WMA) General Assembly meeting in Copenhagen, Denmark (October 3-6), the WMA adopted a resolution with regards to health and human rights in Zimbabwe. It was prepared by the South African Medical Association. The resolution urges the Zimbabwean Medical Association (ZiMA) to address the violations of health rights in the country and stimulates national medical associations of other countries to offer ZiMA their assistance.

World Report 2010
Human Rights Watch: 2010

This 20th annual World Report summarises human rights conditions in more than 90 countries and territories worldwide, based on investigative work in 2009 by Human Rights Watch (HRW) staff in partnership with human rights activists in the country in question. HRW notes that attacking human rights defenders, organisations, and institutions aims to silence the messenger, to deflect pressure and to lessen the cost of committing human rights violations. In the report, HRW calls on government supporters of human rights to defend the defenders by identifying and countering these attacks. The report also points out that defense of human rights, including health rights, depends on the vitality of the human rights movement.

WWF disappointed over results of Copenhagen summit
Kuwait News Agency: 19 December 2009

The World Wide Fund (WWF) has expressed its disappointment over the results of the Copenhagen Climate Summit and considered its results as ‘a gap between theory and application’. In a statement, it said: ‘The end of the summit does not mean the end, but fighting global warming requires political will to implement what was agreed upon’. Leader of the WWF Global Climate Initiative, Kim Carstensen, said: ‘They tell us it's over but it's not. The latest Copenhagen Accord draft mainly reproduced what leaders already promised before they arrived to the Danish capital. The biggest challenge, turning the political will into a legally binding agreement, after years of negotiations we now have a declaration of will which does not bind anyone and therefore fails to guarantee a safer future for next generations.’ He added: ‘A gap between the rhetoric and reality could cost millions of lives, hundreds of billions of dollars and a wealth of lost opportunities. We are disappointed but remain hopeful. Civil society will continue watching every step of further negotiations.’