African Governments affirm support for women's rights, safe abortion

Friday, December 12, 2014

Governments in Africa met in one of several regional meetings leading up to the 20 year review of the 1995 Beijing Platform for Action

This week the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, UN Women and the African Union together released the Addis Ababa Declaration on Accelerating the Implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action, the outcome document from the recent Ninth African Conference on Women (Beijing+20) that took place in November. 

The Declaration issued by African government ministers responsible for gender and women’s affairs is remarkable for its strong language around reproductive rights and abortion. It provides a positive foundation for the Beijing+20 discussions at the 2015 meeting of the Commission on the Status of Women, as well as for the upcoming negotiations on the post-2015 development agenda. Key paragraphs from the Addis Declaration include:

3. Women’s reproductive health and HIV/AIDs 

(b) Invest in sexual and reproductive health rights, including by adopting and implementing laws on sexual and reproductive health, awareness raising and information services for teenagers and women, including comprehensive sexual health education, information and services;

(d) Expand the provision of family planning services and contraceptives and access to safe and legal abortion services in accordance with national laws and policies, and protect the reproductive rights of women by authorizing medical abortion in the case of sexual assault, rape, incest, in line with the Maputo Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights;

Ipas along with allies and champions from throughout the region advocated with governments to ensure that the meeting’s outcome document would protect international agreements such as the 1995 Beijing Platform for Action and the 2003 Maputo Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa, a step forward from the Addis Ababa Declaration on ICPD Beyond 2014.  We recognize essential contributions by Commissioner Soyata Maiga of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights; allies from regional women’s networks, the World Young Women’s Christian Association (World YWCA), the African Women’s Development and Communication Network (FEMNET) and Solidarity for African Women’s Rights (SOAWR); and Ipas staff and partners from Ghana, Malawi, Nigeria, and Zambia.

A powerful statement from African civil society organizations was also drafted and disseminated at the Addis meeting. With even stronger language, the statement calls on nations not only to commit to ensuring reproductive health for all women and girls, but explicitly calls on nations to ensure health care for marginalized populations; to remove restrictive abortion laws; and to address discrimination and inequality based on sexual orientation and gender identity. This statement provided an important framework for advocacy with governments, encouraging them to adopt similar actions.

The Addis meeting was one of several regional meetings taking place to review progress made towards meeting the goals set in the 1995 Platform for Action and prepare for the post-2015 global development agenda. These meetings will culminate at the annual meeting of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women in March 2015.