Health Rights

SALC’s Health Rights programme envisions a region in which the highest attainable standard of mental and physical health is enjoyed equally with full respect for human rights, and where health service users are empowered to enforce respect for their rights.
The Programme has the following objectives:

  • To reform laws, policies and practices that contribute to exclusion and discrimination in the enjoyment of health, including laws that undermine the right to informed consent and HIV criminalisation laws.
  • To remove legal barriers to effective HIV, tuberculosis (TB) and Malaria treatment, care and prevention and to rights-affirming mental health.
  • To develop legal protections for the dignity and human rights of people living with HIV and TB and mental health users.
  • To strengthen accountability for discrimination in healthcare settings.
  • To advance the enjoyment of social and environmental determinants of health, particularly for marginalised and vulnerable populations.

On-going cases:

Malawi: Seeking an effective and humane response to MDR-TB in prison
Malawi: Enforcing prisoners’ right to adequate nutrition.
Malawi: Advancing human rights in mental health
Zambia: Protecting the health rights of HIV-positive prisoners.

Precedent cases:

Nigeria: Mandatory HIV testing and dismissal of an employee on the basis of HIV-status.
Malawi: Challenging the criminalisation of breastfeeding by a woman living with HIV.
Zambia: Challenging the Mental Disorders Act of 1949
Botswana: Securing access to antiretroviral treatment for non-citizen prisoners.
Zambia: Challenging mandatory HIV testing of military employees.
Malawi: The right to bail for terminally ill prisoners awaiting trial.
Lesotho: Application for access to healthcare for military detainee.
Malawi: Case challenging unmet palliative care in detention.
Namibia: Coerced sterilisation of HIV-positive women.
Malawi: Mandatory HIV testing of women.
Zimbabwe: Protecting employees living with HIV from unlawful dismissal.


Litigation Manuals:

HIV Criminalisation Defence Case Compendium 2018.
Litigation Manual: Litigating Cases of Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (2013).
Litigation Manual: Protecting Rights: Litigating Cases of HIV Testing and Confidentiality of Status (2012).
Litigation Manual: Litigating Cases on HIV Discrimination (2011).

Training Tools:

Resource Page: Lawyers for HIV and TB Justice: Strategic Litigation, Legal Defence and Advocacy (2018).
Guidebook: Using Complaints to Address Healthcare Violations (2016).

Research Reports and Policy Briefs:

Research Report: Linking Climate, Gender and HIV Justice: A Preliminary Report on Access to HIV Treatment and Care for People Living on Lake Chilwa Islands, Malawi (2019).
Policy Brief: Access to Justice for Healthcare Violations: Guidance Note for Complaints Bodies (2017).
Research Report: Accountability and Redress for Discrimination in Healthcare in Botswana, Malawi and Zambia (2016).
Research Report: Tackling Cervical Cancer: Improving Access to Cervical Cancer Service in Southern Africa (2012).

10 Oct 2019 Annabel Raw
World Mental Health Day 2019: A Focus on Zambia’s Mental Health Act...

World Mental Health Day is observed on 10 October every year. This year, the theme addresses the important and difficult issue of suicide prevention. Across the world, people are uniting to share information on the public health problem of suicide,…

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16 Aug 2019 Anneke Meerkotter

The Rights4All Project, as part of its My Body My Rights Campaign, has produced leaflets on the laws which can be used by sex workers to assert their rights.   See detailed pamphlet here See summary pamphlet here

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28 Jun 2019 Staff Writer

The AfricanLii Abusive Laws and the fight for reform By Annabel Raw You only have rights if you are a person: How Zambia is legislating away the rights of persons with psychosocial disabilities “I cannot accept people to treat me…

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03 Jun 2019 Annabel Raw
Linking Climate, Gender and HIV Justice: A Preliminary Report on Access to HIV T...

This is a preliminary report on barriers to access to HIV treatment and care experienced by communities living in and around the Lake Chilwa area in Malawi. A fact-finding mission was undertaken in August 2018 by the Coalition of Woman…

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05 Apr 2019 Staff Writer
News Release: Malawi High Court upholds the rights of detained pregnant learners...

In April 2019, the High Court of Malawi, sitting at Mzuzu, in the case of ON and 13 Others v Child Protection Team issued a judgment reviewing the decision of a First Grade Magistrate to impose fines on learners and…

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08 Mar 2019 Annabel Raw

8 March 2019 Mental health law reform in Zambia is desperately overdue. The outdated Mental Disorders Act [Chapter 305 of the Laws of Zambia] perpetuates discrimination, human rights violations, and abuses against persons with mental disabilities. It denies mental health…

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30 Jan 2019 Staff Writer
Media Advisory: Malawi High Court to decide on interim order preventing detentio...

Zomba, Malawi – On Wednesday 30 January 2019, the Malawi High Court, will hear argument on an interim application to prevent prisoners with multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) from being returned to prison. In October 2018, the Zomba High Court granted six…

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17 Jan 2019 Annabel Raw
Malawi: Advancing human rights in mental health...

SALC is working with the Centre for Human Rights Education, Advice and Assistance (CHREAA) to support the case of an individual subjected to forced psychiatric treatment on the basis of a forensic detention order. The applicant argues that human rights…

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17 Jan 2019 Annabel Raw
Malawi: Seeking an effective and humane response to MDR-TB in prisons...

Case Citation: Banda & Others v the Attorney General & Others (Constitutional Case No 120 of 2018), Zomba District Registry; Makwiza & Another v the Attorney General & Others (Civil Cause No 75 of 2019), Zomba District Registry SALC is…

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17 Jan 2019 Annabel Raw
Malawi: Enforcing Prisoners’ Right to Adequate Nutrition...

SALC is working with the Centre for Human Rights Education Advice and Assistance (CHREAA) in Malawi to support a case brought by a prisoner, Mr James Gremu, and CHREAA on behalf of all inmates in which the persistent failure of…

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30 Nov 2018 Staff Writer
Official registration of key populations organizations opens doors for funding a...

Local community groups working with populations vulnerable to HIV in Sub-Saharan Africa are making inroads into obtaining official recognition by their governments, which is expanding opportunities for increased funding and ensuring a more substantial, and needed, role in national HIV…

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16 Oct 2018 Annabel Raw
#WFD2018 Stop the Torture by Starvation in Malawi’s Prisons...

By Victor Mhango and Annabel Raw On this World Food Day, the Centre for Human Rights Education, Advice and Assistance (CHREAA) and the Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC) call for radical and urgent reform of the prison system to stop…

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