General Comments on Article 14 (1) (d) and (e) of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa Preface The Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (the Maputo Protocol) is the first international legally binding human rights instrument to recognize the intersection between women’s human rights and HIV. In Article 14 (1) (d) and (e), the Maputo Protocol lays down women’s right to self-protection and to be protected from HIV infection, as well as their right to be informed of their HIV status and the HIV status of their partners in accordance with international standards and practices in force. As such, the Maputo Protocol is therefore, in practice, an important tool towards the alleviation of the disproportionate effect of the HIV pandemic on the lives of women in Africa. Even though considered as a landmark, the provisions of the Maputo Protocol on HIV are not very explicit on the measures to be taken by States Parties to ensure the full implementation of women’s rights to sexual and reproductive health. However, in order for States Parties to effectively implement the provisions of Article 14 (1) (d) and (e), with a view to giving full effect to the rights enshrined, it is important that the nature and scope of their obligations, as well as the normative content of these provisions, are clearly understood. In order to meet this objective, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the Commission) adopted these General Comments on Article 14 (1) (d) and (e) at its 52 nd Ordinary Session held from 9 to 22 October 2012 in Yamoussoukro, Côte d’Ivoire. The General Comments respond to a need to articulate the specific measures to be taken by States Parties in order to fulfill their obligations by providing specific interpretative guidance on the scope of Article 14 (1) (d) and (e). They also provide a set of international standards and best practices towards an effective implementation of the provisions of Article 14 (1) (d) and (e). In the absence of this guidance, there is a risk not only of non-compliance of the practices of States Parties with the relevant international standards, but also of violations of the human rights of women, through inaction and ignorance. The General Comments are to be used by States in preparing and submitting their periodic reports to the Commission. Thanks to the fruitful collaboration between the mechanism of the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Women in Africa and the Centre for Human Rights of the University of Pretoria, the Commission has, for the very first time, adopted General Comments on the interpretation of a provision of the Maputo Protocol. It is envisioned that they may serve as a model for expanding the interpretation of other provisions of human rights instruments of the African Union. Ms Soyata Maiga Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Women in Africa Introduction 1. General Comments are used by human rights treaty bodies to interpret the provisions of relevant international legal instruments, with a view to assisting States to fulfil their obligations under such instruments. The competence of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the African Commission) to adopt General Comments is derived from Article 45 (1) (b) of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the African Charter), which authorises the African Commission to “formulate and lay down principles and rules aimed at solving legal problems relating to human and peoples’ rights”. As a complementary legal instrument to the African Charter, the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (the Protocol) by necessary implications falls within the Commission’s interpretative scope.