Vulnerable Groups programme

Protected characteristics: AHO advocates for governments in Africa to enact legislations with protected characteristic. The laws must set out the protected characteristics that are protected by the law and the behaviour that is unlawful. AHO has identified 9 protected characteristics to be included in the legislation to make Africa a fairer society, improve public services, and help the community perform well.

Protected Characteristics

AHO is against unlawful discriminate against people with a ‘protected characteristic’. The seven protected characteristics are:

  1. Age: It refers to a person belonging to a particular age (for example 12 year olds) or range of ages (for example 16 – 20 year olds). AHO’s work protects people of all ages especially the most vulnerable children and the elderly from harm, neglect and abuse.
  2. Disability: The Act applies to a range of people that have a condition (physical disability, medical disability or mental disability) which has a significant and long-term adverse effect on their ability to carry out ‘normal’ day-to-day activities. This protection also applies to people that have been diagnosed with a progressive illness such as chronic kidney failure, diabetes, HIV/AIDS or cancer.
  3. Pregnancy and Maternity: Pregnancy is the condition of being pregnant or expecting a baby. Maternity refers to the period after the birth, and is linked to maternity leave in the employment context. In the non-work context, protection against maternity discrimination is for 26 weeks after giving birth, and this includes treating a woman unfavourably because she is breastfeeding. Also, AHO is against discriminating against a man’s paternal rights.
  4. Race: It refers to a group of people defined by their race, colour, and nationality (including citizenship) ethnic or national origins. This includes colour, ethnic / national origin or nationality.
  5. Religion or belief: AHO advocates for the protection of any religion, religious or non-religious beliefs. Also includes philosophical belief or non-belief (such as Atheism).
  6. Remote communities: People who live in remote areas and communities such as Khoi San (Bushmen), Maasai suffer serious discrimination because of their remoteness.
  7. Sex: Also referred to as gender, it applies to male or female. Men and women have different needs and they need to reflect in health service delivery.
  8. Social status: AHO’s seventh protected characteristic is social status. This includes social, economic status, poor or rich, literate or illiterate. Poor and illiterate people are more likely to be discriminated against than others because of ignorance and vulnerability.
  9.  Other: AHO will not discriminate against anyone because they are different. AHO service is available to everyone at the point of need, resources permit.


Methods of discriminated

Under the legislation people are not allowed to discriminate, harass or victimise another person because they have any of the protected characteristics. There is also protection against discrimination where someone is perceived to have one of the protected characteristics or where they are associated with someone who has a protected characteristic.

  • Discrimination means treating one person worse than another because of a protected characteristic (known as direct discrimination) or
  • putting in place a rule or policy or way of doing things that has a worse impact on someone with a protected characteristic than someone without one, when this cannot be objectively justified (known as indirect discrimination).
  • Harassment includes unwanted conduct related to a protected characteristic which has the purpose or effect or violating someone’s dignity or which creates a hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for someone with a protected characteristic.
  • Victimisation is treating someone unfavourably because they have taken (or might be taking) action under the legislation or supporting somebody who is doing so.

AHO Programme of action

  • Advocating for legislation for protected characteristics across Africa
  • The application of the law in daily lives on protected characteristics
  • Set up projects on each of the protected characteristics
  • Making health service responsive to the needs of all people
  • Ensure health service take into account protected characteristics