NGEC joins campaign to end violation of reproductive health rights
On 11th November, 2015, the National Gender and Equality Commission was invited by the International Community of Women Living with HIV Eastern Africa(ICWEA) and ICW-Kenya to launch a one year campaign to end violation of rights to reproductive health, end criminalization of HIV and call for widening of choices of contraceptives for women living with HIV.
The one year campaign will run through the five East African countries( Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi) where ICWEA operates. In her remarks, Lillian Mworeko, the Executive Director of ICWEA said the campaign was to drum up support against injustices to women living with HIV that include forced / coerced sterilization, forced abortion, limited access to comprehensive sexual reproductive health and Rights programmes, limited family planning options, choices and methods, limited access to information as well as Stigma and discrimination.
The campaign targets women living with HIV to know their constitutional rights to access sexual reproductive rights services, to speak out when these rights are violated and not to agree to any procedures affecting their sexual and reproductive health unless they have full information and are in their right physical and emotional state. It targets policymakers and parliamentarians to make/review laws and policies on HIV to integrate needs and priorities of women living with HIV based on their experiences.
The campaign calls for education of health workers to be able to provide full information on sexual reproductive health rights, appropriate family planning methods and to change their attitudes to women living with HIV in service delivery, to be more inclusive of customer needs and priorities and to use a human rights approach to the delivery of reproductive health services.
In her remarks before launching the campaign, Dr. Florence Wachira thanked the organizers for inviting NGEC to the function. She explained that the theme and spirit of the campaign resonated well with the mandate of NGEC- to promote gender equality and freedom from discrimination. She reiterated that gender equality as a social relationship was about fair treatment of all in society and also enabling everyone to access equal rights and opportunities and thus to maximize their potential and contribution to Socio-Economic development. Denying women living with HIV right to access sexual Reproductive Rights services or even making choices for them on the methods of contraception they should use was not only a violation of their right to choose but it also amounted to discrimination. It carries the risk of further marginalizing them
Noting that some countries like Kenya were ahead of the other East Africa countries in terms of legislation and policies, Commissioner Wachira said she hoped the campaign will highlight the need to harmonize HIV legislation across the East African countries , will bring to focus the need for women living with HIV to be represented at the policy making levels and to be adequately consulted in identifying their needs and priorities. Noting that HIV affects the most productive sector of Society-the Youth, she highlighted the need to use statistics and sex-disaggregated data in planning initiatives and campaigns against the epidemic. She called on the media to partner appropriately with ICWEA and ICW-Kenya to ensure that the one year campaign achieved its objectives and helped to make a breakthrough for women living with HIV in their fight for equal access to sexual reproductive Health Services and the right to choose what is appropriate for them.