Criminal Laws and Women’s Right to Health

Published on June 20, 2012

Panel Criminal laws and women’s right

The Sexual Rights Initiative and partners co-sponsored a side event at the 20th session of the Human Rights Council focusing on criminal laws and women’s right to health. The objective of the event was to provide a forum for States and stakeholders in Geneva to discuss the key findings and recommendations of the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health’s 2011 report to the General Assembly on the criminalization of sexual and reproductive health including abortion.

The Special Rapporteur’s report consolidates years of analysis from health and human rights experts from all regions of the world regarding the intersection of criminal laws and abortion, control over conduct during pregnancy and delivery, contraception and family planning, education and information on sexual and reproductive health. By applying the right to health framework to these issues, the Special Rapporteur concludes that criminal laws and other restrictions regarding sexual and reproductive health violate women’s right to health and obstruct the achievement of public health goals. States therefore have an obligation to remove these restrictions immediately.

The event was designed to give an overview of the Special Rapporteur’s report, a country specific example from Ethiopia of how abortion law reform has improved women’s right to health, a country specific example from Ireland of how the criminalization of abortion in almost all circumstances violates women’s human rights to health, autonomy and dignity and the World Health Organization’s data and policy guidance on the right to sexual and reproductive health. A very interesting discussion with the audience followed the presentations and focused on how the Council can incorporate the recommendations of the report into its work, examples of best practices for law reform, global trends, advocating for sexual and reproductive rights in difficult contexts and strategies for mobilization of key actors at all levels.


Read the full report:  Summary Report – Criminal Laws and Women Right to Health Side Event

Presentation – Anand Grover – Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health

Presentation – Maeve Taylor – IFPA

Presentation – Saba Kidanemariam – Ipas

SR Right to Health Report – Criminalization of SRHR – 2011