UN Committee Issues Recommendations to Rwanda

In March 2013, the Center for Reproductive Rights submitted its first-ever shadow letter on Rwanda to the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights ( UNCESCR) to draw attention to serious reproductive rights violations in the country.

In May, UNCESCR reviewed Rwanda's compliance with the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. In the course of its review, UNCESCR relied heavily on the information and proposed recommendations of the Center.

UNCESCR expressed concern about the lack of access to health care services among Rwandan women and asked the government to ensure access to health care services for the entire Rwandan population without distinction based on gender. Explicitly noting that the high rate of maternal mortality is "partially due to unsafe abortions taking place in inadequate or clandestine conditions," UNCESCR asked the government to take measures to reduce maternal mortality by improving access to safe and legal reproductive health services.

UNCESCR also expressed concern about the "criminalization of and the application of severe punishment for recourse to abortion" and asked the Rwandan government to "revise its laws with a view to reduce the scope and the severity of the punishment of abortion and to facilitate access to professional medical services with a view to eliminating the practice of unsafe abortions that place the lives of women and girls at risk."

Further, UNCESCR focused on inadequate access to contraceptives, and demanded that the government "extend family planning services, including contraceptives, to all women, and carry out educational programmes on sexual and reproductive health."

UNCESCR also demanded the government investigate, prosecute, and punish perpetrators of sexual and physical violence, reduce school drop-out rates, and introduce human rights education in school curricula.

The Center welcomes UNCESCR's recommendations and urges the government to prioritize their implementation in order to improve the sexual and reproductive health and rights of women and adolescent girls in Rwanda.