This page offers topic-specific guidance on the use of the Human Rights and Reproductive Health Matrix, created by United States Agency for International Development (USAID)-supported POLICY Project Human Rights Working Group. To view other aspects of the Matrix, including guidance on other topics, please click on the Matix icon above.
Reproductive rights recognize the basic rights of all couples and individuals to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing and timing of their children and to have the information and means to do so, and the right to attain the highest standard of sexual and reproductive health. Additionally, reproductive rights affirm individuals? right to make decisions concerning reproduction free of discrimination, coercion, and violence. Reproductive rights thus refer to certain human rights already enshrined in international and national laws and consensus statements.
Links to Reproductive Health
Reproductive rights make meaningful the attainment of the highest standard of reproductive health, which includes prevention of gender-based violence, education and information about contraception, access to family planning methods, access to appropriate health-care services enabling safe pregnancy and childbirth and information about prevention of sexually transmitted infections. Counties? high rates of maternal mortality and HIV/AIDS infection incidence, for example, clearly demonstrate the need to improve reproductive health through improving reproductive rights.
· Maternal deaths are largely preventable, caused by the inability of women to access timely, skilled, and medically appropriate care. In turn, gender inequalities that undervalue women and their reproductive health needs are the most formidable barriers to women?s access of emergency obstetric care.
· HIV transmission is enabled and facilitated by discrimination and violations of other human rights. Women are increasingly infected with HIV because women are denied HIV/AIDS education and information, unable to obtain condoms, or forced to engage in unprotected sex.
Human Rights Implicated
Reproductive rights are implicit in the right to health. People are entitled to complete well-being, not only in mental and physical health, but ?in all matters relating to the reproductive system and its functions and processes.? Reproductive rights do not encompass only the right to reproductive health, however. The protection of the following other human rights enable the provision and acquisition of reproductive health:
Relevant Human Rights Documents
All major human rights treaties and consensus statements obligate countries to protect and promote rights that relate to reproductive health. Of all human rights documents, the Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), a treaty binding on 165 countries, provides the strongest legal support for the right to reproductive health per se. In Article 12, CEDAW guarantees non-discrimination in access to health care, including affordable services and information related to family planning, pregnancy, and the post-natal period.
1994 International Conference on
Population and Development (
Key Human Rights Arguments You Could Use
Countries must follow the Cairo Programme to be in compliance with their duties to promote, protect, and fulfill women?s rights to good reproductive health. The CEDAW Committee, the United Nations body that monitors countries? CEDAW compliance, declares that governments should ?ensure universal access for all women to a full range of high-quality and affordable health care, including sexual and reproductive health services.? The Committee uses the uses the Cairo Programme in developing performance standards to determine whether countries are in compliance with their obligations to uphold reproductive health and rights.
Legal Remedies You Could Try
Subjecting a country to international scrutiny is an effective way of pressing a country to modify laws and policies that permit human rights abuse. The international legal system offers several ways to advocate for country-level improvement of reproductive rights.
This Topic was written by Genevieve Grabman, JD, MPH, in collaboration with Anne K. Eckman, PhD and POLICY's Gender and Human Rights Working Groups. Questions and comments should be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
 Reproductive health implies that people are able to have a satisfying and safe sex life and that they have the capability to reproduce and the freedom to decide if, when and how often to do so. Implicit in this last condition is the right of men and women to be informed and to have access to safe, effective, affordable and acceptable methods of family planning of their choice, as well as other methods of their choice for regulation of fertility which are not against the law, and the right of access to appropriate health-care services that will enable women to go safely through pregnancy and childbirth and provide couples with the best chance of having a healthy infant. Further Actions and Initiatives to Implement the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (Beijing +5), para. 72 (i)
 International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) Programme of Action, para. 7.3.
 Cf. ICPD Programme, para. 7.6
 International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Art. 12.
 ICPD Programme, para. 7.2.
 Center for Reproductive Law and Policy, Reproductive Rights 2000: Moving Forward 12; World Health Organization, Considerations for Formulating Reproductive Health Laws 7.