As part of the main drivers of the BAM Group of Companies, this being the umbrella company within which Informative Newspaper operates, alongside sister brands Finite Magazine, Finite Lifestyle Club, Bam Promotions and Twin Talk, Informative Newspaper takes particular interest in social issues and causes created to advance the development of young girls and women and their participation in the global space.

To advance and cement the organization’s support for women and young girls, the Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights is today, through this issue introduced. Its purpose is to advance knowledge and create further awareness on developments surrounding the said community sector and to help audiences stay updated on such, further guiding means of both action and reaction to these developments.

The journey continues…

Adolescent girls and young

In 2015, there were 1.2 billion youth (between the ages of 15 and 24) globally. While the number of young people has stabilised, and is beginning to decline in most parts of the world, the number of young people in Africa is still growing

In 2015, 226 million youth aged 15-24 lived in Africa, accounting for 19%
of the global youth population.
Young people, especially girls and young women, in sub-Saharan Africa face many
challenges in exercising their sexual and reproductive rights: girls and young women
are at higher risk of HIV and in 2016, global new infections amongst young women
between the ages of 15 and 24 were 44% higher than young men of the same age.

In Southern and East Africa, young women accounted for 26% of new infections,
despite making up just 10% of the population.
Girls and young women are also at risk of unwanted, unintended pregnancy, unsafe
abortion and the health consequences that follow from these. Approximately 16
million girls between the ages of 15 and 19 and 1 million girls below the age of 15,
give birth every year, mostly in low- and middle-income countries. Three million
girls undergo unsafe abortions annually.

Young women and girls’ vulnerability to HIV and their lack of access to SRH is
directly linked to gender inequality, harmful gender norms and structures that limit
their ability to fully realise their sexual and reproductive rights.

International and regional human rights obligations
SADC countries have ratified international and regional human rights treaties that protect the rights
of young women and girls to reproductive rights and health, including the Protocol to the African
Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (the Maputo Protocol), the
International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), the African Charter on
Human and Peoples’ Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). This includes access
to health care, health-related information and to make decisions about the number and spacing of

The Maputo Protocol includes the right to choose a method of contraception, to have access to family
planning education and to be protected against HIV and STIs. It explicitly includes a limited right to
medical abortion in cases of sexual assault, rape, incest and where the continued pregnancy endangers
the mental and physical health of the woman or the life of the woman or the foetus.

The CRC states that children have a right to health-related information that includes information about
how to prevent early pregnancy. The SADC Gender and Development Protocol also states the girls
should have equal access to education, information, services and facilities on SRHR.

The Committee on Social, Cultural and Economic Rights has stated that access to reproductive and
sexual health care should include “a wide range of contraceptive methods, such as condoms and
emergency contraception, medicines for abortion and for post-abortion care, and medicines, including
generic medicines, for the prevention and treatment of sexually transmitted infections and HIV”.

Both the CRC committee and the CEDAW committee have recognised the rights of adolescents to
contraceptive information and services. The CEDAW committee has urged countries to decriminalise
abortion to ensure that women and girls have access to safe abortion and post-abortion care.
In 2016, the CSW adopted resolution 60/2 on women, girls and HIV.

The resolution recognised that
violence, discrimination and harmful practices are key contributing factors to the spread of HIV amongst
women and girls and calls on states to intensify efforts to achieve gender equality.

In addition to their legal obligations under international human rights laws, SADC countries have also
committed to achieve the SDGs, also known as the Global Goals. These goals aim to end extreme
poverty, eliminate inequality and injustice and address climate change by 2030. Target 3.7 aims to
ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health care services, including family planning
education and information, by 2030.

The 2016 Political Declaration for Ending AIDS includes a pledge to eliminate gender inequalities and
end all forms of violence and discrimination against women and girls. The Declaration includes targets
for reducing the number of new HIV infections among adolescent girls and young women to below
100 000 per year, ensuring that 90% of young people have the skills, knowledge and capacity to protect
themselves from HIV and that 90% of young people in need have access to sexual and reproductive
health services and combination HIV prevention options by 2020.

SADC has recently developed guidelines to assist member states on target-setting, critical analyses and
investment planning for HIV prevention for adolescent girls, young women and their sexual partners.

Discriminatory laws
Many SADC countries have laws in place that create barriers to adolescent

• Few SADC countries have explicit consent to sex ages set out in their
legislation.39 This makes it difficult for both adolescents and policy makers to
determine what the minimum legal age of consent is. Where the legal age of
consent to sex is not specified by law, adolescents and young people often
encounter barriers to accessing services related to SRH.

• Not all SADC countries have set minimum marriage ages in their laws and in
many countries, there is a conflict between civil and traditional laws.

• The majority of SADC countries do not have laws that specify the age at which
adolescents can independently consent to medical treatment, including HIV
and SRH; this includes access to contraception, HIV counselling and testing
and abortions. The lack of clarity about when adolescents are able to make
decisions on their own behalf creates a significant barrier to access to services. 

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