MDG 5, HUMAN RIGHTS, AND MATERNAL HEALTH IN AFRICA
contours of these stipulations, the body charged with implementing the
treaty has taken decisive steps to guide the operationalization of the
provisions of the treaty.194 In General Comment No. 14,195 the U.N.
Committee on ECOSOC rights (CESCR), issued a number of
authoritatively interpretive statements that clearly define the meaning,
nature, and scope of the obligation of States Parties to the treaty.196
Remarkably, the CESCR adopts an expansive definition of the right to
health as incorporating “the right to control one’s health and body,
including sexual and reproductive freedom,” as well as entitlement to a
“system of health protection which provides equality of opportunity for
people to enjoy the highest attainable level of health.”197 By stressing
“equality of opportunity,” the CESCR aims to project reproductive and
sexual health freedom as a key component of maternal health, the
realization of which depends on its placement on the same pedestal as other
health issues and entitlements, unhindered by factors such as gender
discrimination. The CESCR highlights the link between maternal and child
health in its analysis of this obligation: “[t]he provision for the reduction of
the stillbirth rate and of infant mortality and for the healthy development of
the child,”.198 It interprets this provision as imposing a requirement upon
States Parties to adopt measures aimed at improving child and maternal
health, sexual and reproductive health services, including access to family
planning, pre- and post-natal care, emergency obstetric services, and
information, as well as to resources necessary to act on that information.199
This holistic expository framework, although predicated on the ICESCR,
echoes specific provisions of other key human rights instruments, namely,
the CEDAW200 and CRC,201 both of which were discussed in the
For countries in Africa, the above interpretation of the CESCR has been
strengthened by the Maputo Protocol,202 which was adopted three years
194. General Comment No. 14, supra note 149.
195. Id. para. 30.
196. Id. para. 6. The ICECSR was explicit as to the rationale undergirding the General
Comment, namely, to assist States Parties in their implementation of the covenant and the
fulfillment of their reporting obligations.
197. Id. para. 8.
198. ICESCR, supra note 188, art. 12( 2)(a).
199. General Comment No. 14, supra note 149, para. 14.
200. See CEDAW, supra note 13, arts. 12( 1)-( 2).
201. See Convention on the Rights of the Child, supra note 19; STATE OF THE WORLD’S
CHILDREN, supra note 20; CONVENTION ON THE RIGHTS OF THE CHILD, supra note 20;
ACRWC, supra note 21.
202. See Protocol to the African Charter, supra note 17.