By Yvette Kathurima

The conclusion of the Plan of Action on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights, also known as ‘Maputo Plan of Action’ therefore stated “African leaders have a civic obligation to respond to the Sexual and Reproductive Health needs and Rights of their people. This Action Plan is a clear demonstration of their commitment to advance Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights in Africa.” This decision was communicated in the Decision on the Continental Policy Framework for the Promotion of Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights in Africa (Doc. EX.CL/225 (VIII) which “ALSO URGES Member States to mainstream SRH in their National Health Programmes by developing linkages between SRH, HIV/AIDS and other primary health care programmes and to draw inspiration from the Continental Policy Framework for the Promotion of Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights in Africa.”

However, since 2006, there has been significant regression in terms of understanding and implementing policies on SRHR. Most recently, many African states have argued for a redefinition of the term ‘Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR)’ with a preference towards ICPD language that highlighted ‘Sexual and Reproductive Health’ and ‘Reproductive Rights’ usually followed by qualifiers. This is evident in the Common African Position Pillar 3: People Centered Development with states ensuring universal and equitable access to quality healthcare, including universal access to comprehensive sexual reproductive health and reproductive rights (e.g. family planning). This redefinition is problematic as it undermines the importance of sexual rights. Consequently, discussions on bodily integrity and autonomy regarding the right to choose your sexual partner and freedom from sexual violence are disregarded. Additionally, comprehensive sexuality education and supporting the sexual and reproductive health needs of adolescents are overlooked.

*Yvette Kathurima is the Head of Advocacy at FEMNET (African Women’s Development & Communication Network). Connect with her @Wamburay and advocacy@femnet.or.ke

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