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Health, Social Movements, and Rights-based Litigation in South Africa

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This article investigates the impact of rights-based litigation on social struggles in the South African health sector. It considers the manner in which individuals and social movements have utilized rights and the legal process in their efforts to dismantle the ill-health/poverty cycle, in the particular context of the struggle for universal access to treatment for HIV/AIDS. Relying on literature concerning the transformative potential of socio-economic rights litigation and on examples from South African case law, the article critically evaluates the gains that have been made and the obstacles that have been encountered in this context. It argues that rights-based litigation presents a powerful tool in the struggle against poverty, but also elaborates on structural and institutional hurdles that continue to inhibit the effectiveness of rights-based strategies in this regard.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: School of Law, University of the Witwatersrand, Wits 2050, Johannesburg, South Africa, Email:

Publication date: September 1, 2008


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