GENEVA (23 June 2021) – Governments must do more to guarantee universal and equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines and to guarantee enjoyment of the right to life and health of billions of persons in the Global South, a UN expert told the Human Rights Council today.
“The pandemic’s disproportionate impact on Black people, indigenous peoples and other ethnically, religiously and racially persecuted groups, such as the Rohingya and Roma, is rooted in historical and current systems of oppression, systemic discrimination and racism,” Tlaleng Mofokeng, the Special Rapporteur on the right to health, told the Council.
“These factors also underpin the lack of universal access to COVID-19 vaccines for the poor in the global South.
“As a Black woman from South Africa who grew in the era of apartheid, I will make substantive equality in the realization of the right to health our common goal,” she said in presenting her annual report to the Council. “The impacts of racism, the legacy of European Colonialism and discrimination on multiple grounds will be at the core of my analysis and work.”
Mofokeng, who took up her duties on 1 August 2020, told the Council her priorities include: Global health related to the COVID-19 pandemic, racism and the right to health and health equity. She said she would also focus on sexuality, gender-based violence and femicide during her tenure.
“Sexual health is fundamental to the overall health and wellbeing of individuals, couples and families,” she said. “It requires a positive and respectful approach to sexuality and sexual relationships and the possibility of having pleasurable and safe sexual experience, free of coercion, discrimination and violence.
“Dignity and bodily autonomy are central to sexual and reproductive health rights. I will attempt to champion equitable digital health care solutions regarding these rights,” said Mofokeng.
“It is a grave injustice that one in three women report physical and or sexual partner violence, and that lesbian and transgender women experience homophobic rape and other forms of sexual violence,” she said, “These serious human rights violations also have a heavy toll on their physical and mental health.”
She pledged to “constructively engage with States, private business, health workers, civil society and right holders to put the realization of the right to health for all at the core of our common agenda”.
Ms. Tlaleng Mofokeng, (South Africa), is the Special Rapporteur on the right to health since August 2020. She is a medical doctor with expertise advocating for universal health access, HIV care, youth friendly services and family planning. Tlaleng Mofokeng is a member of the boards of Safe Abortion Action Fund, Global Advisory Board for Sexual Health and Wellbeing, Accountability International. She is also the Chair of the Soul City Institute board. Her areas of focus have been on gender equality, policy, maternal and neonatal health, universal health access, post violence care, menstrual health, and HIV management. Tlaleng Mofokeng has been Commissioner at the Commission for Gender Equality in South Africa and advisor to the Technical Committee for the National Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights Framework Strategy in South Africa.
The Special Rapporteurs and Independent Experts are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent of any government or organisation and serve in their individual capacity.
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