The Southern Africa Litigation Centre is pleased to share the report, Tackling Cervical Cancer: Improving Access to Cervical Cancer Services for Women in Southern Africa.  Cervical cancer is a leading cause of cancer death among women in southern Africa, and is either the primary or secondary cause of cancer death among women in all 10 countries in which the Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC) works. Moreover, the negative impact of cervical cancer is exacerbated in southern Africa given the high prevalence of HIV among women in the region.

Cervical cancer is easily preventable and treatable in any resource setting. However, necessary services to prevent and treat cervical cancer have not been made available or easily accessible in southern Africa. The report, based on a combination of desktop research and field research in Namibia and Zambia on the availability of and access to cervical cancer services, found that very few countries in the region have comprehensive policies on cervical cancer. Essential prevention services such as screening and vaccination are also not widely available in the public health sector in most countries, and treatment for both pre-cancerous lesions and invasive cancer remains a challenge. Read the rest of this entry »

The 52nd Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, held in Yamoussoukro, Cote D’Ivoire from 9-22 October 2012, celebrated the 25th Anniversary of the Commission.

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On Thursday, the Botswana High Court will issue judgment in Mmusi and Others v Ramantele and Others, a case challenging a customary law rule providing for male only inheritance of the family home. The judgment will address whether a rule which clearly discriminates against women violates the right to equality enshrined in the Botswana Constitution. The Court had requested the Attorney-General’s intervention in the matter. The Attorney-General argued that regardless of the fact that the rule was discriminatory, Botswana society was not ready for equality and thus the unequal rule must stand.

SALC will provide live updates from the courtroom via twitter (@Follow_SALC) on Thursday.

On 21 August 2012, the Zambia AIDS Law Research and Advocacy Network (ZARAN) and Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC) jointly hosted a strategy workshop with lawyers in Lusaka, Zambia. The key objective of the workshop was to work towards building a pool of lawyers who would be willing to conduct public interest litigation on health‐related rights. The workshop was attended by a range of role-players in the field of public interest litigation in Zambia, including the committees of the Law Association of Zambia, the Ministry of Justice, the University of Lusaka, the International Justice Mission, the YWCA and YMCA, the National Legal Aid Clinic for Women, the Human Rights Commission of Zambia, the National Institute of Public Administration, the Zambia Law Development Commission, Women and Law in Southern Africa and the Legal Aid Board.

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The Namibian Women’s Health Network organized supporters on day of coerced sterilisation decision. Check out the photos below.

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On Monday 30 July 2012, the High Court in Namibia is due to issue its judgment in a landmark case challenging the coerced sterilisation of three HIV-positive women. The three women alleged that they were sterilised without their informed consent in violation of their rights under common law and the Constitution of Namibia.

You can read more about the case here

SALC will be providing regular updates from the courtroom via twitter (@Follow_SALC) and this blog. We would love to hear your thoughts, so please post your comments here or on twitter.

On Monday, the Botswana High Court will hear arguments in Mmusi and Others v Ramantele and Another, a case challenging a customary law rule denying daughters the right to inherit the family home.

At issue in the case is a Ngwaketse customary law rule which provides that the youngest son inherits the family home. The applicants argue that this rule denying them the ability to inherit their family home violates their right to equality under section 3 of the Botswana Constitution. They further claim that the daughters have all assisted in the upkeep and expansion of the family home and thus should be permitted to inherit it.

The respondents argue that though under the Ngwaketse customary law the youngest son inherits the family home, the daughters are still permitted under the law to inherit other aspects of the estate, such as the household utensils and goods. They further argue that even if this rule is found to infringe the right to equality, the violation is justified as this is the cultural rule within the community.

The case is an appeal from a decision of the Customary Court of Appeal, which applied the customary law rule, finding the applicants could not inherit the family home.

The case before Justice Dingake will address whether the Ngwaketse rule is an infringement of the Botswana constitution and if so, whether that infringement is justified. Arguments will start at 9:30am at the High Court of Botswana in Lobatse. You can follow live updates from the arguments on SALC’s twitter feed (@Follow_SALC).

From 25 – 26 April 2012, SALC will host a meeting to discuss an advocacy strategy aimed at increasing access to and availability of cervical cancer prevention and treatment services as part of sexual and reproductive health services for women in southern Africa.  

SALC recently undertook research on the status of policies related to cervical cancer, as well as the availability of and access to prevention and treatment services in southern African countries using Namibia and Zambia as case studies. The meeting brings together stakeholders with experience working on cancer, sexual and reproductive health, HIV and women’s rights more broadly in southern Africa to discuss the findings of the research and possible advocacy strategies in Namibia and Zambia specifically, as well as at the regional level.  Read the rest of this entry »

Through the variety of legal cases and jurisdictions in which SALC has worked, SALC has developed expertise regarding women’s rights as well as comparative constitutional law and international and regional law.

SALC is challenging Lesotho’s discriminatory Chieftainship Act, which only allows the first-born son to succeed to chieftainship. SALC filed submissions in Masupha v Senior Resident Magistrate for the Subordinate Court of Berea and Others a landmark case that is due before the Lesotho Constitutional Court next month with a decision expected in late 2012.

The Applicant, Senate Masupha is the first-born daughter of a chief.  When the Applicant’s father passed away the Applicant’s mother succeeded to the chieftainship and upon her death a vacancy was created in the office of the Principal Chief.  In terms of section 10 of the Chieftainship Act, the applicant is barred from succeeding to the chieftainship on account only of her being a first-born daughter. The Applicant is calling on the Constitutional Court to declare the relevant sections of the Chieftainship Act unconstitutional and permit women to succeed to chieftainship.

Intervening as amicus curiae (friends of the court), SALC’s submissions argue that the law is unconstitutional under the Lesotho Constitution as well as under Lesotho’s international and regional obligations. In SALC’s opinion, universally denying women the ability to succeed to chieftainship entrenches the view that women are subordinate members of society and this is a fundamental breach of their constitutional rights. The submissions highlight how gender inequalities contribute to the disproportionate impact HIV/AIDS has on women and the importance of ensuring the rights of women for an effective response to HIV/AIDS.

The submissions serve to ensure that laws which explicitly promote discrimination in the region are repealed. It is hoped that the Lesotho Constitutional Court will follow the approach that has been used by other courts in the region.  The Constitutional Court in South Africa has struck down laws which promote discrimination in cases of inheritance and succession. Courts in Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, and Tanzania have also all struck down laws which deny women the right to inherit solely due to their gender. Moreover in Botswana, the Court of Appeal in Attorney-General v Dow struck down a law denying children citizenship only if their mother was a Botswana citizen.

For a copy of SALC’s submissions please click here

What does the decision of a US court sitting in New York have to do with our HIV work here in Africa? Turns out a lot. Yesterday the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit held that the US government cannot require organisations receiving funding for their HIV work to sign a statement denouncing prostitution. Now to be clear, the US is permitted to refuse to fund activities that advocate for the legalisation of sex work. But two judges on the Second Circuit found that the extra step–requiring organisations to proactively denounce prostitution regardless of what the money was being used for–violated their rights to free speech. The Court reasoned that requiring an organisation to publicly support the government’s viewpoint was an infringement of the right to free speech.

However before we all put on our party hats, the ruling only applies to US organisations and not organisations based outside of the US who rely on US funding for critical HIV work. We need to build on this work and ensure that the anti-prostitution pledge is removed for all organisations regardless of where they are based.