Gender, Human Rights, and Reproductive Health

POLICY's Gender and Human Rights Working Groups have collaborated to facilitate linking human rights to key gender issues in reproductive health. As stated by the International Conference on Population and Development (Cairo Programme of Action), human rights are crucial to supporting reproductive health:

Advancing gender equality and equity and the empowerment of women, and the elimination of all kinds of violence against women, and ensuring women's ability to control their own fertility, are cornerstones of population and development-related programmes. The human rights of women and the girl-child are an inalienable, integral and indivisible part of universal human rights.1

The requirements of international law2 and the distinct reproductive health problems and outcomes faced by women3 demonstrate the necessity of addressing gender equity in reproductive health programming. Gender equity indicates fairness and justice in the distribution of benefits and responsibilities between women and men.4 Meeting human rights obligations of ending inequalities between men and women, and of promoting the conditions and health care services necessary to meet the different needs of women and men, is essential to ensuring the highest standard of reproductive health for all.

It is important to note that applying human rights to support gender equity has been an evolving practice. [To learn more, click here.]

1International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), Principle 4.
2See, for example, Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), Art. 12, "States Parties shall take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women in the field of health care in order to ensure, on a basis of equality of men and women, access to health care services, including those related to family planning." Emphasis added.
3Gender-based differences result in differential health risks and vulnerabilities, different perceptions of health needs and appropriate forms of treatment, differential access to health services, different consequences or outcomes from disease, and different social consequences as a result of ill health. See World Health Organization (WHO), Transforming Health Systems: Gender and Rights in Reproductive Health 82 (2001).
4World Health Organization (WHO), Transforming Health Systems: Gender and Rights in Reproductive Health 43 (2001).