Developing norms and standards on maternal mortality in Africa: lessons from UN human rights bodies
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The African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the Protocol to the African Charter Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (African Women’s Rights Protocol) contain useful provisions for addressing maternal mortality as a human rights violation. In addition, the African Union and its organs have recognised maternal mortality as a violation of the rights of women in Africa through initiatives such as the Campaign on Accelerated Reduction of Maternal Mortality in Africa; the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (African Commission) Resolution 135 on Maternal Mortality in Africa; as well as the African Commission’s General Comment on the Right to Life. Both the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the African Commission are now set to apply these frameworks in their jurisprudence and engagements with States. However, despite these developments, a significant number of African women die every year due to complications arising from pregnancy or childbirth. These deaths are avoidable if African governments have lived up to their obligations under international and regional human rights instruments. This article addresses pertinent experiences from the United Nations human rights system and analyses the key lessons learned from their approaches to addressing maternal mortality as a human rights issue, to strengthen the African system’s jurisprudence and legal frameworks.