Tuesday, 30 October 2007

The Right to Life and Survival in Nigeria

The right to life is the most obvious right that could be applied to protect a woman at risk of dying in childbirth due to lack of obstetric care. Given the magnitude of an estimated 1,400 maternal deaths worldwide each day, it is remarkable that so few legal proceedings have made their way into Nigeria's national courts to require that the government take all appropriate measures to identify the causes of maternal mortality. This is due in part to families and communities in which women have died of pregnancy-related causes not understanding how governmental neglect of the conditions in which women bear pregnancies and give birth violates their right to life.

Effective protection of the right to life requires that positive measures be taken to ensure access to appropriate health-care services, enabling women to go safely through pregnancy and childbirth and providing couples with the best chance of having a healthy infant. Positive measures might include progressive steps taken to ensure an increasing rate of births are assisted by skilled attendants.

The right to liberty and security of the person is one of the strongest defenses of the right of women to free choice of maternity. If governments and agencies which administer health services fail to provide conditions necessary for safe motherhood, they are accountable for violations of women’s right to liberty and security of the person, and must take all appropriate steps to prevent and remedy the situation.

The right to liberty and security of the person can be applied to require that positive measures be taken to ensure respect in the delivery of reproductive health services to women who are at particular risk. Sometimes adolescents hesitate to seek reproductive health services because they fear that their confidentiality might be breached. They fear, perhaps incorrectly, that information about their sexual behaviour, which they have to make for appropriate health care, will be disclosed to their parents, parents of their partners, teachers and others.

As a result, special care and attention needs to be given to informing adolescents in the community through positive assurances that confidentiality will be protected, and to training health personnel appropriately.

*Reported by Adanma Ike

No comments: