Women’s reproductive rights are dangerously missing – Lawyer

Ms Bernice Sam, a lawyer and gender advocate, touched by dwindling women’s reproductive rights and high maternal deaths largely caused by socio-cultural and religious factors, has called for ‘new paradigm shift’ to safeguard mothers’ rights.

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Ms Bernice Sam, a Consultant (Dialogue Lead) on the DFID-funded Western Region Coastal Foundation programme.
Ms Bernice Sam, a Consultant (Dialogue Lead) on the DFID-funded Western Region Coastal Foundation programme.

Women’s reproductive rights are dangerously missing, she said, and that was evident in the discriminatory customary and religious practices relating to early and forced marriages, un-negotiated sex, child spacing and divorce leading to many maternal deaths arising from preventable complications.

Ms Bernice Sam, a Consultant (Dialogue Lead) on the DFID-funded Western Region Coastal Foundation programme.
Ms Bernice Sam, a Consultant (Dialogue Lead) on the DFID-funded Western Region Coastal Foundation programme.

“For every woman who dies, approximately 20 others suffer serious injuries, infections and disabilities,” Ms Sam said at the Helen Kanzira Annual Memorial lectures at Legon and urged states, partners and traditional leaders to change their stance and provide resources for better health service delivery.

Ghana recorded 319 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births in 2015, which she described as ‘shocking and a horrific statistics’, as against Morocco which registered 121, Algeria 140, Egypt 33, Libya 9 and Tunisia 62.

Drawing from a Kenyan proverb, “every woman who gives birth has one foot in her grave,” Ms Sam said it was unacceptable for even one woman to die of complications arising from child birth in the country.

Despite reports that show that the number of mothers’ deaths has steadily dropped globally by some 43 percent in 2015; 830 women still die every day from pregnancy and child birth complications.

She outlined many causes of maternal deaths including bleeding or haemorrhaging which is said to be the leading cause of deaths accounting for 27 percent.

Hypertensive disorders or high blood pressure, unsafe abortions, disruption of basic social services due to civil strife, she noted contributed to mothers dying.

HIV/AIDS contribute high maternal death in Africa, while in 2013, she said, 7,500 AIDS-related deaths were recorded globally; 6,800, representing 91 percent were found in Sub-Saharan Africa, including Ghana.

Ms Sam expressed regret that though protecting women’s rights had engaged policymakers for a while; technology had also moved on but the causes of maternal mortality remained the same as existed some 50 years ago.

She said despite the many customs around adulthood and procreation, preventable deaths from pregnancy-related complications and child birth were seemingly accepted without challenging the status quo.

“To change this, it is time for a paradigm shift in the provision of health services, and a shift in the way of thinking and behaviours of society,” she said.

“Women’s reproductive health is a moral obligation for the pregnant woman, partner, family and society and a legal obligation of state parties to provide adequate health resources for better service delivery for women,” she added.

The lecture was organised by the Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria and the School of Law, University of Ghana under the topic: “protecting women’s reproductive rights in Africa: a moral or legal obligation?’”

Helen Kanzira was an alumni of both Makerere University and the University of Pretoria; she died in 2007 at the age of 39 as a result of complications arising from giving birth to a baby girl.

Source: GNA

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