irrespective of rank in society or any other unjustifiable distinction, to “all
the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration.”135 The significance of
this provision is underscored by its incorporation into virtually all subsequent
human rights documents, even those adopted by regimes with questionable
human rights records.136 The implication, therefore, is that even if other
provisions of the UDHR remain mired in controversy, its prohibition against
non-discrimination should be considered to have assumed a certain level of
universal acceptability and affirmation.137 This is the prism from which to
examine human rights infractions pertaining to fistula.
The UDHR sets the stage by recognizing the right of everyone to a
“standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of
his family, including [inter alia] medical care,”138 and stipulating that
“[m]otherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance.”139
The significance of these provisions lies not only in laying the foundation for
the right to health but in specifying the need for special attention to mothers
and children. This specification is critical for three reasons. First, it draws
attention to the vulnerability of these demographics. Aside from being poorer
than the general population, pregnant women and young children (as a
consequence of diminished and evolving immunity respectively) are more
susceptible to a wide range of diseases and illnesses than the general
population.140 Second, coupling the human rights of mothers and children
emphasizes the indivisibility paradigm of human rights discussed previously
– that is, a recognition that the needs of mothers cannot be addressed in
isolation of that of children and vice versa. The third importance of the
specification is that it speaks directly to the subject of this paper – fistula
population. Most of the victims are children – individuals who became
mothers before their bodies were ripe for motherhood.141 They are also poor,
a reason the concluding portion of Art. 25( 1) – entitling everyone to
“necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of . . .
sickness, disability . . . or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond
135. Id. at art. 2; see also id. at art. 1, 7.
136.Com pare Human Rights Abuses by Country, THE GUARDIAN, http://www.
theguardian.com/Tables/4_col_tables/0,,258329,00.html (last visited Nov. 6, 2015), with Vote
of the General Assembly to Adopt the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, GRAND
COUNCIL OF CREES, http://www.gcc.ca/pdf/INT000000019b.pdf (last visited Nov. 6, 2015).
137. See UDHR, supra note 131.
140.Se e e.g., GFR Fact Sheet on Malaria, GLOBAL RISK FORUM (2009), http://
grforum.org/fileadmin/user_upload/grforum/documents/Malaria_Factsheet.pdf (malaria as an
141. Suellen Miller et al., Obstetric Fistula: A Preventable Tragedy, 50 J. OF MIDWIFERY
& WOMEN’S HEALTH 286, 287-88 (2005).