A feminist critique of legal approaches to adolescent sexual and reproductive health rights in eastern and southern Africa: denial and divergence versus facilitation
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The adoption of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) Programme of Action (1994), brought sexual and reproductive health rights (SRHR) under the attention of the international community.
International law standards recognise the need to create an enabling legal environment that ensures that
adolescent sexual and reproductive rights are realised. These standards include, for instance, setting an age at
which adolescents can access contraceptives without parental consent, and facilitating the provision of family
planning services to adolescents. This article employs a feminist approach to critiquing the protections
available to the SRHR of adolescents in Eastern and Southern Africa. It explores the current legal approaches to
the protection of the SRHR in international and regional instruments and examines the way they are
implemented in the regions. The article establishes that while broad frameworks exist under the international
and regional frameworks, reference to the specific rights issues facing adolescents is limited. It also shows that
while the international guidance is premised on the principles of gender equality, it fails to provide a holistic
approach that the domestic jurisdictions can follow. The article concludes with views on the role of the law in
promoting adolescent sexual and reproductive health from a gender-sensitive perspective. Feminist
jurisprudence is used as the theoretical framework throughout the article.