SRI Statemennt to CERD’s Day of General Discussion on a Proposed General Recommendation on The Right to Health: Panel 2

Published on August 23, 2022

CERD’s Day of General Discussion on a Proposed General Recommendation on The Right to Health

Thank You Chair,

This statement is delivered by the Sexual Rights Initiative (SRI) based on the joint submission to the Committee. 

We thank the committee for the opportunity to provide our inputs. We are however concerned by the barriers to participation for civil society organisations, particularly but not limited to those from the Global South, in today’s discussions due to visa restrictions and high costs of travel to Geneva, and that only part of today’s proceedings are in a hybrid format. We urge the committee to expand the opportunities for consultation and engagement in this critical process, including by hosting regional meetings in order to ensure meaningful participation from organisations from the Global South and the people most affected by racial discrimination.


The first point relates to racism as a health determinant

In 2021, on a panel focussing on COVID-19 the UN SR on Health remarked that racism was itself a co-morbidity. One of the manifestations of racism in health care is testimonial injustice, which takes place when racialised patients’ account of their symptoms or their pain is dismissed because they are not perceived as credible narrators, and which is compounded by other factors including gender, class, disability, body size, age, or health status. The dehumanisation and dismissal of racialised patients can have deadly consequences, as shown by the deaths of Black and Indigenous women due to racist and sexist medical neglect and abuse in many countries, including Israel, France, Canada, the USA, and South Africa.    

The relationship between health, race, class and gender is rooted in colonial, patriarchal and capitalist control over women’s sexuality, reproduction and bodies and produces distinct experiences of oppression that are often fatal. From harmful stereotypes, to essentializing all women down to their reproductive capacities, to forced sterilisation as well as forced pregnancy, to subjection to chromosomal testing in elite sporting events, racialised women are specifically targeted by the state for interventions or purposeful inaction that have profound impacts on their health and human rights.

We therefore urge the Committee to engage with holistic and expansive conceptions of health by Indigenous and racially marginalised people and explicitly include a rigorous gender analysis throughout the whole General Comment and to specifically address gender as a determinant of health. 


My second and final point relates to health financing contributions to racism

At the global level, health funding comes mostly from high-income countries, businesses and corporations, and private foundations and wealthy individuals. Donors’ priorities regularly dictate the attention and funding given to specific issues, often without prior consultation with beneficiaries or regard for the context. There is a dire lack of accountability mechanisms to ensure that global health priorities and funding follow recipients’ needs, and the current global health and health funding landscape replicate racist and colonial power dynamics. 


We recommend the committee:

Engage with all the elements outlined under Article 5 (e)(iv), including the right to public health:

a.   Call on states to fund health publicly through progressive taxation, free from control from other governments, multilateral agreements and transnational corporations;

b.   Treat privatisation of health care and health determinants as incompatible with human rights and racial equality