UN High Commissioner for Human Rights presents the Helen Kanzira Memorial Lecture

Posted on May 16, 2012

Helen Kanzira was an alumnus of the pioneer class of the Master of Laws in Human Rights and Democratisation in Africa at the Centre for Human Rights. She passed away in Uganda following complications during childbirth.

In commemoration of her spirit and dedication to the promotion of human rights in Africa, the Centre for Human Rights instituted the lecture to raise awareness of issues relating to women’s reproductive health rights.
In the lecture titled ‘Valuing women as autonomous beings: Women’s sexual and reproductive health rights’, Ms Pillay illustrated the link between reproductive health and women’s human rights, and provided an overview of the international human rights framework for the protection of women’s reproductive health rights.

She hailed South Africa as a possible model for ensuring the protection of women’s reproductive health rights and indicated that even though implementation was still to be achieved, the legal and policy frameworks were in place. She also mentioned that because women are still burdened with poverty in many parts of the world, their reproductive health rights remain elusive.

Commendably, Ms Pillay did not keep silent on sensitive issues such as abortion and rights relating to sexual orientation and emphasised the fact that human rights belong to everyone.
The floor was opened for questions following the lecture and the High Commissioner welcomed suggestions on how to best advance women’s reproductive health rights.
The event was attended by approximately 200 guests, including members of the diplomatic corps, members of the general public, and students and staff of the University of Pretoria. Ms Yanine Poc, the Regional Representative of the Southern Africa Regional Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, and Prof Cheryl de la Rey, Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the University of Pretoria, were also present.

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