MDG 5, HUMAN RIGHTS, AND MATERNAL HEALTH IN AFRICA
and child health and welfare” as a core function of WHO. 12 More recently,
States Parties to the premier international human rights instrument on the
rights of women – Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of
Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) 13 – recommitted themselves to
actualizing maternal health in their respective jurisdictions. 14 Aside from
resolving to take “all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination
against women in the field of health care in order to ensure, on a basis of
equality of men and women, access to health care services, including those
related to family planning,” 15 they also agreed to ensure adequate provision
of “appropriate services in connection with pregnancy, confinement and the
post-natal period . . . .” 16
In Africa, the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’
Rights on the Rights of Women, also known as Maputo Protocol or
Protocol, is particularly significant. 17 The Protocol imposes upon States
Parties a number of obligations: (a) provision of adequate health services,
including information, education, and communication programs to women
particularly those in rural areas; (b) establishing and strengthening existing
prenatal, delivery, and postnatal health and nutritional services for pregnant
and breastfeeding women; and (c) protecting the reproductive rights of
women by authorizing medical abortion in cases of sexual assault, rape,
incest, and where the continued pregnancy endangers the mental and
physical health of the mother or the life of the mother or the fetus. 18
Furthermore, although the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) is a
child-centered international covenant, it also offers critical protection to
mothers. 19 States Parties to the CRC, the most widely ratified human rights
treaty, 20 undertake “to ensure appropriate pre-natal and post-natal health
12. WHO, Constitution of the World Health Organization 4 (1946), available at
13. Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women,
opened for signature Dec. 18, 1979, 1249 U.N.T.S. 13 (entered into force Sept. 3, 1981)
14. Id. art. 12( 2).
15. Id. art. 12( 1).
16. Id. art. 12( 2).
17. Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of
Women in Africa, opened for signature Sept. 13, 2000, CAB/LEG/66.6 (entered into force
Nov. 25, 2005), reprinted in 1 AFR. HUM. RTS. L.J. 40.
18. CEDAW, supra note 13, art. 14( 2).
19. Convention on the Rights of the Child, opened for signature Nov. 20, 1989, 1577
U.N. T.S. 3 (entered into force Sept. 2, 1990).
20. UNICEF, THE STATE OF THE WORLD’S CHILDREN: SPECIAL EDITION ii, 2 (2009); U.N.
TREATY COLLECTION, CONVENTION ON THE RIGHTS OF THE CHILD, STATUS AS AT JUNE 24,