n African Human Rights Law Journal - Exploring judicial strategies to protect the right of access to emergency obstetric care in Uganda

Volume 7, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 1609-073X
  • E-ISSN: 1996-2096



Maternal mortality and morbidity are serious problems in Africa in general and in Uganda in particular. Evidence shows that emergency obstetric care can play a significant role in the alleviation of these problems. However, in Uganda, there is limited access to such care, prompting an exploration of judicial strategies to protect the right to access emergency obstetric care. The article argues that the absence of an express provision guaranteeing the right in the national constitution is not a bar to its protection by the judiciary. Arguments against the judicial protection of socio-economic rights, generally, and the right in question, in particular, are misguided. Through an examination of relevant constitutional provisions and case law from a number of jurisdictions, the article finds that, in certain circumstances, the Ugandan government may be held accountable in domestic courts for failing to ensure access to emergency obstetric care to all women who need it. The judiciary can - without necessarily undermining the separation of powers - enhance women's access to emergency obstetric care by creatively and purposively interpreting constitutional provisions with a view to holding the government accountable. Nevertheless, judicial strategies must be underpinned by legislative, budgetary and other measures in order to achieve a holistic protection of the right.

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