opportunities and delaying marriage and childbirth.”192
This paper has labored to show that the necessary elements of this
strategy are incorporated within the MDGs framework as well as human
treaties to which the vast majority of countries in fistula prone regions are
States Parties. A major argument of the paper is that preventing the
occurrence of fistula is a key human rights obligation—an obligation that
involves educating and empowering women, freeing them from the
suffocating clutches of poverty, shielding them from early marriage, and so
forth—in addition to respecting, protecting, and fulfilling their right to health.
Shaping the analysis was decidedly an eye toward the population most
affected by fistula, those to whom “States” are charged with “hav[ing] a
special obligation . . . especially with respect to the core obligations of the
right to health.”193 As argued elsewhere, the “productivity of human rights is
at its peak, much like liberation theology, when it is ‘on the side of the poor’
and ‘struggles alongside them against the poverty that has been unjustly
created and forced on them.’ ” 194
The Biblical adjuration—“whatever you did for one of the least of
these . . . sisters of mine, you did for me”195—is a statement of canonical
significance that transcends Christian morality. It has also a powerful human
rights resonance. By using the term “least of these . . . sisters,” the Good
Book commands special attention to the needs of the most vulnerable
amongst us (in this case, poor girls and women), for a special ministry to be
carved out for their upliftment and reintegration into society.196 Evidence that
this prioritization (of the needs of vulnerable populations) is also a key human
rights edict is provided by the use of the term “vulnerable” at least eleven
times in the most authoritative document on the meaning and nature of the
right to health.197 The pronouncement of an earlier document is even more
compelling, “that even in times of severe resources constraints,” regardless
of the cause, “the vulnerable members of society can and indeed must be
protected.”198 As to how vulnerable they really are, the UNFPA elucidates:
The women and girls suffering from obstetric fistula are living proof of
193. See General Comment No. 14, supra note 143, ¶ 19.
194. Obiajulu Nnamuchi, Millennium Development Goal 6 and the Trifecta of HIV/AIDS,
Malaria and Tuberculosis in Africa: A Human Rights Analysis, 42 Denv. J. Int’l L. & Pol’y
247, 281 (2014) (quoting LEONARDO BOFF & CLODOVIS BOFF, INTRODUCING LIBERATION
THEOLOGY 4 (Paul Burns trans., 1987)).
195. Matthew 25: 40 (New International Version).
196. HOPE FOR CHILDREN IN POVERTY: PROFILES AND POSSIBILITIES 19-20, 22, 24 (Ronald
J. Sider & Heidi Rolland Unruh eds., 2007), available at http://www.baylor.edu/content/
197. See General Comment No. 14, supra note 143, ¶¶ 12(b), 18, 35, 37, 40, 43(a), 43(f),
52, 62, 65.