Adolescents' access to emergency contraception in Africa: an empty promise?

Oluremi A. Savage-Oyekunle, Annelize Nienaber

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Governments have committed themselves at international human rights fora to prioritising programmes aimed at adolescents' development and wellbeing, particularly their educational and health needs. Such programmes include those focused on adolescents' sexual and reproductive health, and are aimed at enabling adolescents to manage in a positive manner their awakening sexuality. African countries, too, have focused their efforts on adolescents. Despite commitment by governments, an alarmingly high rate of unintended pregnancies among Africa's adolescents persists. These unintended pregnancies are associated with a low level of contraceptive use, especially among adolescent girls who face significant discrimination and inequality when accessing contraceptive information and services, including specific information on where and how to access emergency contraceptives. This situation flies in the face of the realisation that unconditional and unhindered access to emergency contraceptives is an important tool to protect adolescent girls from sexual ill-health and maternal mortality and morbidity. In light of obstacles in the way of adolescent girls' access to emergency contraception in the African region, the comments of the various treaty-monitoring bodies are highlighted in the article in order to strengthen arguments in support of African adolescents' access to emergency contraception. Additionally, mechanisms which may be adopted to overcome obstacles that hinder adolescents' access and use of emergency contraceptives are examined in order to determine whether they may be beneficial in ensuring African adolescents' access to emergency contraception. Although the study is comparative in nature, specific attention is paid to Nigerian adolescents' access to emergency contraception.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)475-526
Number of pages52
JournalAfrican Human Rights Law Journal
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Sexual and reproductive health
  • Adolescents
  • Access to emergency contraception
  • Maternal mortality


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