Role of the Universal Periodic Review in advancing the Sexual Reproductive and Health Rights of Persons with Disabilities

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The UPR and its goal

The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is a unique process which involves a periodic review of the human rights records of all 193 United Nations Member States. The UPR is a significant innovation of the Human Rights Council which is based on equal treatment for all countries. It provides an opportunity for all States to declare what actions they have taken to improve the human rights situations in their countries and to overcome challenges to the enjoyment of human rights. The UPR also includes a sharing of best human rights practices around the globe. Currently, no other mechanism of this kind exists. The ultimate goal of UPR is the improvement of the human rights situation in every country with significant consequences for people around the globe. The UPR is designed to prompt, support, and expand the promotion and protection of human rights on the ground. To achieve this, the UPR involves assessing States’ human rights records and addressing human rights violations wherever they occur. The UPR also aims to provide technical assistance to States and enhance their capacity to deal effectively with human rights challenges and to share best practices in the field of human rights among States and other stakeholders.

 

Ghana’s UPR 

Ghana appeared for the third time at the UPR in November, 2017, having appeared in 2012 and 2008.  At the 2017 UPR, Ghana’s team was led by the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Madam Gloria Akuffo who had to give updates on developments made so far since the 2012 UPR and receive recommendations from UN member states, which will become the yardstick by which Ghana will be reviewed in 2021. On developments made since the 2ndUPR in 2012, the Ghana team gave updates on the Review of the 1992 Constitution, the Death Penalty, the 2016 Elections, the ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT), the National End Child Marriage Project, the Capitation Grant for Basic Education, Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty (LEAP), School Feeding Programme, Free School Uniforms, Free Sandals and Free SHS which have been introduced to increase access to and improve quality of education, reduce poverty and promote overall socio economic development. 

At the 3rd UPR, Ghana received a total of 241 recommendations, out of which nearly 80 were relevant for Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) topics.  SRHR issues were given much more importance during this UPR cycle.  It means that the international community increasingly considers SRHR as a prioritized topic, a trend that Ghana should take duly note of. SRHR issues such as Inclusion of the Clinical Methods of Family Planning in the National Health Insurance Scheme, availability and affordability of contraceptives, the adoption and implementation of the Family Planning Costed Implementation, the adoption of the National Guidelines on Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE), domestic violence, harmful traditional practices, girls’ access to education, combatting all forms of discrimination based on or related to sex, gender and sexuality and trafficking of persons, among others.

 

PPAG’s Report to the UPR

PPAG together with its partners including Ghana Federation of Disability Organizations (GFD), Vision for Alternative Development (VALD), Human Rights Advocacy Centre (HRAC), Alliance for Reproductive Health Rights (ARHR), Ghana Coalition of NGOs in Health (GCNH), African Women Lawyers Association (AWLA), Women in Law and Development in Africa (WiLDAF) and Hope For Future Generations (HFFG) submitted a reporting coving SRHR for Persons with Disabilities (PWDs). The report was developed usinginformation from secondary sources and in– depth interviews with selected implementing institutions/organizations. As part of the process, a stakeholders’ consultative meeting was held to collate inputs on the draft document from relevant stakeholders. 

The findings revealed that, Ghana has over the years put in place legal frameworks aimed at protecting the rights of PWDs and these policies and Acts have provided a framework for programming and planning of interventions on SRHR for PWDs. The findings revealed that most of the studies conducted on the SRHR of PWDs focused on their access to services and barriers to accessing services. Barriers to the SRHR needs of PWDs were identified as communication barriers, physical barriers, psychological barriers, social barriers, attitudes by health professionals,illiteracy among deaf people, privacy and confidentiality offered at SRHR centres, and poor interpretation skills of sign language interpreters. The findings also showed that although there seems to be a strong commitment on ensuring that the rights of PWDs are respected and protected, there is little in terms of real actions that have been implemented to address these especially in the area of SRHR in the country.

Also, PPAG and partners took part in broader human rights and SRHR dialogues in Ghana and internationally, including the Human Rights Council in Geneva, aiming to highlight the added value of working towards the achievement of Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights for all Ghanaians (in particular for PWDs, women and girls). 

 

Conclusion

With Ghana's UPR outcome to be adopted on 15th March 2018, at the UN Human Rights Council at Geneva, it is expected that government will work with all stakeholders including CSOs to develop the needed structures to implement the accepted recommendations and work at improving general status of human rights in Ghana especially in the area of SRHR for PWDs. Government should not wait till the reporting time, before it generates a report for review. It will be recommended that, a National Dialogue on UPR with relevant stakeholders be organized to properly assess the status of the Human Rights in Ghana before a national report be prepared and submitted in 2021. This will ensure that, the true state of the human rights status is presented. It will also be recommended that, the UPR recommendations that are eventually accepted should be tied alongside with the Medium Term Development Plan, the African Agenda 2063 and the Sustainable Development Goals, to avoid duplication of efforts.   

 

The author - Archibald Adams - is the Advocacy Coordinator of the Planned Parenthood Association of Ghana, the leading CSO on Sexual Reproductive and Health Rights. His email address is aadams@ppag-gh.org