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MEMORANDUM AND POSITION STATEMENT ON THE EAST AFRICAN COMMUNITY SEXUAL AND REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH BILL 2021

Zamara Foundation

WE, the undersigned feminists, young women, and young people in all our diversities representing feminist youth-led, women-led and human rights civil society organizations and initiatives;

AWARE that the current generation of young people especially young women globally and in East Africa is the largest one ever and recognizing that adolescents and youth in all countries are a major resource for development and key agents for social change, economic development and technological innovation;

ACKNOWLEDGING the efforts and the commitment of the East African Community to improve the wellbeing of adolescents and young people through the development and implementation of Article 118 of The Treaty for the Establishment of the East African Community on Health, the East African Community Youth policy, the East African Community Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights Strategic Plan, the HIV and AIDS Prevention and Management Bill 2012, the EAC Gender Policy among others;

RECALLING the East Africa Community States’ commitment to advancing gender equality and adolescent and youth rights by signing and ratifying key regional and international instruments including the Convention on Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), Convention on Civil and Political Rights (CCPR), Convention on Economic Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR), Africa Youth Charter, Africa Charter on Human and People’s Rights, The Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa, (Maputo Protocol) among others;

FURTHER RECALLING previous attempts of the East African Community to develop a legal framework for the realization of sexual and reproductive health and rights in the region including the development of the East African Community Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights Bill, 2017;

EXPRESSING DEEP CONCERN that adolescents and young people in the East Africa Community are disproportionately affected by sexual and reproductive health and rights challenges including teenage pregnancies, sexual and gender-based violence, high burden of HIV/AIDS, maternal mortalities and morbidities from procuring unsafe abortions among others;

UNDERSCORING that young people and adolescents are not homogenous and have different needs and experiences; and that there are more vulnerable subpopulations within this group including sexual and gender minorities; girls young women; persons with disabilities, refugees, and persons living with HIV among others who face multiple, intersecting and compounding challenges;

DISTURBED that these challenges have been exacerbated by emergencies, disasters and pandemics including COVID 19, political disturbances and turmoil, and wars among others;

DEEPLY REGRETTING the increased politicization, sensationalization, opposition, misinformation, disinformation and threats by communities, religious leaders, and political leaders on young people’s sexual and reproductive health and rights including access to comprehensive youth-friendly services and comprehensive sexuality education;

INVOKING Article 127 of the Treaty for the Establishment of the East African Community that mandates the East African Community States to promote an enabling environment for the participation of civil society in the development activities within the Community;

WELCOMES the spirit and letter of the East African Community Sexual and Reproductive Health Bill 2021.

WE CALL UPON the EAC to protect, fulfill and respect SRHR of young people by incorporating the below general recommendations:

GENERAL RECOMMENDATIONS

  1. Align the Bill with existing international and regional instruments on health, SRHR and gender justice including the Convention on Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), Convention on Economic Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR), Africa Youth Charter, Africa Charter on Human and People’s Rights, The Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa, (Maputo Protocol), Article 118 of The Treaty for the Establishment of the East African Community on Health, the East African Community Youth policy, the East African Community Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights Strategic Plan, the HIV and AIDS Prevention and Management Bill 2012, the EAC Gender Policy.
  2. Incorporate sexual health rights and reproductive Rights in the Bill and ensure the right to bodily autonomy and integrity is protected, fulfilled, and respected.
  3. Strengthen the meaningful engagement of all young people in their diversity in the Bill development process by utilizing platforms and structures most accessible and acceptable to young people including digital platforms.

 

Download the full position paper and memo here