How Improving Women’s Rights Helps Stop AIDS in Africa

Women in Africa are one step closer to justice.

Women in Africa are routinely deprived of rights to land, property, and housing—a situation contributing to, and worsened by, the AIDS epidemic.

As the Center on Housing Rights and Evictions has noted, throughout sub-Saharan Africa, “in many cases, subsequent to the HIV/AIDS related deaths of male partners or disclosure of their HIV/AIDS status, women are divested of their marital property, inheritance rights, livelihoods, and at times even their children, by relatives who forcibly evict them from their homes.” 

Moreover, deprived of economic resources, women may be trapped in abusive relations where they are unable to take steps to protect themselves from HIV infection or seek treatment. Impoverished, women also have reduced capacity to cope with the disease.

Women living with HIV suffer abuse in health care, including discrimination, and violations of their consent to treatment and patient confidentiality. Forced or coerced sterilization of women living with HIV is unfortunately all too common, as documented in Kenya, Namibia, and South Africa.

Last month, however, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the main regional human rights body in Africa) has taken a stand on the side of justice. 

In two landmark resolutions, it urged states to “protect and promote women’s right to land and property” and “to put in place mechanisms to ensure that women living with HIV are not subjected to coercion, pressure or undue inducement by health care providers ... in order to secure consent for sterilization.”

The Resolution on Women’s Right to Land and Productive Resources specifically calls for:

  • Repeal of discriminatory laws, and reform of customary practices that limit women’s access to, and control over, land and other property
  • Land reforms to ensure equal treatment for women
  • Legal protection for women against evictions and dispossession of land
  • Effective remedies for violations, including free legal assistance to ensure compensation and return of land
  • Integration of women’s land and property rights in national HIV and AIDS strategies

The Resolution on Involuntary Sterilisation and the Protection of Human Rights in Access to HIV Services calls for:

  • National laws reflecting the principles of free and informed consent in health care for women living with HIV
  • Information on HIV and reproductive health services in a language women understand
  • Regular trainings of medical personnel on human rights in health care
  • Investigation of allegations of involuntary sterilization of women living with HIV
  • Complaint mechanisms, legal assistance, and reparations for women who have been involuntarily sterilized

Women in Africa are one step closer to justice. 

States must now take heed and ensure that critical human rights protections do not overlook half of the population. It is time to respect, protect, and fulfill the fundamental rights of African women.  

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Tamar this is a fantastic blog. The two resolutions are very critical to our work in Kenya on women rights to inherit and own property as KELIN. The resolution on involuntary sterilization is equally timely at a time when we are dealing with the cases. We will put these two important resolutions to use to ensure women living with and affected with HIV in Kenya enjoy their human rights.

Thanks so much for the kind note. Hopefully, these two resolutions will indeed be useful tools in Kenya.

Thanks, Tamar, for updating on these important advances in international/regional human rights standards. And, while we certainly applaud the ACHPR, the passage of these resolutions is testament to the advocacy of many women's rights, human rights and PLHIV organizations (such as KELIN, mentioned above). Without the work of such organizations, individual women would have even less access to justice and international/regional human rights systems might have taken many more years to affirm/support greater access to justice for women living with and affected by HIV. For a recent report on similar circumstances in the Asia/Pacific region, please see

So true! Thanks for the link and comment.

Tamar, thanks for sharing these important developments — activists and allies have a new tool to advance women's rights on these vital issues and I will certainly cite these resolutions in my advocacy work.

Excellent. Thank you, Sandra.

This is a milestone and an impact to our work in Africa

Yes Say to life. good work for women living with HIV in kenya. but kindly we have some more women living with HIV in some part of kenya can no access such can your official reach other in 47 county and making difference in the livelihood.This is a milestone and an impact to our work in Nairobi with the women living with HIV in kenya and some are awards by NACC-Prof Alloys. Thanks Good

awesome, i is about we eradicate gender inequality and that's just the way forward

women in luo nyanza needs more help they are still beleiving in women inheritance which is risky to infection of HIV/AIDS by their husbands they have no say couse the men are polygamous and the head of their families and they have to cope wiht the situation no matter what.Help us get out of this horrible epidemic.

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