The USC Law & Global Health Collaboration hosted Justice Oagile Bethuel Key Dingake, Justices of the Supreme and National Courts of Papua New Guinea, for a talk on “Achieving Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights in Southern Africa” Feb. 5, 2019.
In this Q&A learn about his work in Southern Africa, the challenges facing the advancement of sexual and reproductive health and rights as well as advice on how to make an impact.
Tell us about yourself.
My name is Oagile Bethuel Key Dingake and I’m a sitting judge of the Supreme Court of Papua New Guinea. Previously I sat in the High Court of Botswana for 15 years. I’m also a sitting judge of the residual special court for Sierra Leone, having been appointed by the secretary-general of the United Nations in 2013.
What will you be speaking about today?
Today I’m going to give a comparative perspective on the state of sexual reproductive health laws in Southern Africa focused mainly on Botswana, Swaziland and South Africa. The laws that are in place reflect the attitudes of the communities within which these countries serve. The conservative attitude that is embedded in society manifests inevitably in the laws, in the policies, and also informs perspectives of the judiciary in pronouncing on these issues.
What challenges do you experience in your work?
The challenge that we have is that Southern Africa has an epidemic of bad laws on sexual and reproductive health. These are informed by very ultra-conservative views on the rights of women, particularly on the rights of adolescent girls, who are considered to lack capacity to make independent and confidential decisions. The result of all this is that young girls, in particular, are more susceptible to HIV infection and other ailments.
What can people do to help?
“We need everyone’s hands on deck; [it’s] not just the responsibility of government, not just the responsibility of the judiciary, but the responsibility of everyone.”Justice Oagile Bethuel Key Dingake
The average person must remain engaged in civil society activities to try to open up spaces in order to expand the laws that are cruel to women and adolescent girls. I think it is the responsibility of everyone. We need everyone’s hands on deck, [it’s] not just the responsibility of government, not just the responsibility of the judiciary, but the responsibility of everyone.
Where can people learn more about the work you have done?
In my culture self-praise is frowned upon but I imagine anyone who wants to follow the work I have done can find that in Botswana law reports and other journals published across the world. There have been interesting cases that you can follow on gender justice, on ethnicity law, the right to a fair hearing and so forth. It may well be that this is where my success lies. It’s a real honor and privilege to be here to share the little that I know with the rest of the colleagues who attend this important event.
Watch Justice Oagile Bethuel Key Dingake’s full presentation, “Achieving Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights in Southern Africa.”
This talk is part of the 2018-2019 Global(HEALTH+LAW) Series, hosted by the USC Law & Global Health Collaboration, supported by the USC Collaboration Fund.