(2012) JLP 65: 103-132
This article examines the relevance of substantive equality in addressing maternal deaths in Nigeria. The article argues that, aside from medical causes of deaths during pregnancy or childbirth, socio-cultural factors such as the low status of women and lack of respect for their fundamental rights often aggravate maternal deaths in Nigeria. While maternal death amounts to a violation of women’s rights to health and life, it is contended that the application of the concept of substantive equality, as opposed to formal equality, can be helpful in addressing some of the root causes of maternal deaths in the country. This may require the government to take some practical steps such as awareness campaigns, law reforms and gender-sensitive budgeting towards improving the health of women. The article points out that the tension between international human rights law, statutory law and customary law in a pluralist state may have serious implications for women’s fundamental rights, particularly the right to health. Therefore, the article argues that, in accordance with its obligations under international and regional human rights instruments, the Nigerian government needs to pay more attention to promoting and protecting women’s rights, including meeting their health needs.