an important catechism of human rights.
III. HUMAN RIGHTS ANALYSIS
This report by the UN Secretary General is an apt illustration of the human
rights dimension of obstetric fistula:
Obstetric fistula is a devastating childbirth injury that leaves women
incontinent, often stigmatized, and isolated from their communities. It is a
stark outcome of socioeconomic and gender inequalities, human rights
denial and poor access to reproductive health services, including maternal
and newborn care, and an indication of high levels of maternal death and
Starkly put, the report is a powerful indictment of global inaction
regarding a condition that is easily preventable but persists as a formidable
obstacle to the “freedom, well-being and dignity” of a vulnerable
demographic.110 Obstetric fistula is a human rights concern for a number of
reasons: it “occurs disproportionately among impoverished girls and women,
especially those living far from medical services;” affects the “most
powerless members of society;” and “touches on . . . reproductive health and
rights, gender equality, poverty, harmful traditional practices and adolescent
reproductive health.”111 The UNFPA was quite unequivocal, “[t]aking action
to end fistula is a fundamental human rights challenge of the 21st century and
directly advances the MDGs—in particular, child and maternal health targets
(Goals 4 and 5)—as it brings us one step closer to making safe childbirth a
reality for all women.”112 In other words, pursuing initiatives that advance
child and maternal health would ultimately result in significant curtailment,
even if not eradication, of fistula.
To demonstrate the nexus between the MDGs and human rights, and how
exploring this link could positively impact women at the risk of fistula, a
number of preliminary points would have to be fleshed out. First, it must be
noted that although the MDGs are projected as representing a “partnership”
that is squarely aimed at “development and the elimination of poverty,’”113
development-agenda (last visited November 10, 2015).
109. U.N. Secretary-General, supra note 37, at 1.
110. PHILIP ALSTON ET AL., UNITED NATIONS DEV. PROGRAMME, HUMAN
DEVELOPMENT REPORT 2000 1 (2000), http://hdr.undp.org/sites/default/files/reports/261/hdr_
111. The Quest to Prevent and End Obstetric Fistula Worldwide, FRIENDS OF UNFPA,
http://www.friendsofunfpa.org/netcommunity/page.aspx?pid=1259 (last visited Nov. 7,
2015); see Alston et al., supra note 110, at 2 (emphasizing that a human rights approach to
development prioritizes the needs and interests of the “most deprived and excluded, especially
to deprivations because of discrimination”).
112. Neglected No More, Fighting Fistula, supra note 70.