A Mother’s Health in Uganda

5 Jun

A high court in Uganda has just struck down a measure brought by the Center for Health, Human Rights and Development that sought to make the government legally responsible for the health of its mothers. CEHURD drafted a constitutional petition stating that the collossal failure of the Ugandan government to provide functional and progressive maternal health care services for its women was a violation of their human rights. http://www.cehurd.org/2012/04/feature-maternal-health-case-puts-govt-on-the-spot/

Roughly 16 women die in Uganda every day due to pregnancy-related causes; the majority of these can be eradicated through an increase in government funding to clinics, midwifery, and health educational outreach. The average woman who enters a government hospital to give birth is expected to bring with her a plastic sheet, razor blades, cotton gauze, etc. What happens during the “care” of a mother who does not possess or cannot afford these goods?

A constitutional petition wisely attempts to force the issue on the legal grounds of a nation’s obligation to protect its citizens. The petition legally and figuratively draws the female citizen out from under the rubric of “citizen,” it extracts the female human from the human in “human rights,” in order that the specific concerns that a female human Ugandan citizen has be addressed on those very same terms. By its insistence on particularity, the petition gives the lie to the claim that all citizens are granted universal rights; for all citizens are not universally uniform, thereby requiring rights particular to them. This does not succumb to the derogative ghetto of “special rights,” but instead acknowledges that universality is comprised of multitudes within it. To deny a woman’s human rights is to treat her as sub-human.


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