Putting it to Good Use: The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and Women’s Right to Reproductive Health



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(last visited Mar. 12, 2004). A number of states have entered reservations to Article 2. Many of these countries justify their reservations ‘on the ground that national law, tradition, religion or culture are not congruent with Convention principles.’ United Nations Division for the Advancement of Women, Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women: Reservations, United Nations, <http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/cedaw/reservations.htm>.

53. United Nations Treaty Collection, Women’s Convention – Declarations and Reservations as of February 2002. Available at: <http://www.unhchr.ch/html/menu3/b/treaty9_asp.htm>; last accessed 24 May, 2004.

54 Id.

55. Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, GA Res. 2200A (XXI), GAOR, UN Doc. A/6316 (1966), <http://www.unhchr.ch/html/menu3/b/a_opt.htm> (hereinafter Optional Protocol). The number of ratifications (and accessions) is as of 2 November 2003. Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (2004) ‘Status of Ratifications of the Principal International Human Rights Treaties’ (last visited April 12, 2004) [hereinafter Ratifications of ICCPR].

56. ‘ Statistical Survey of Individual Complaints Dealt With by the Human Rights Committee Under the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights’, 16 February 2004, <http://www.unhchr.ch/html/menu2/8/stat2.htm> (last visited April 12, 2004) (hereinafter Statistical Survey).

57. Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, GA Res. 54/4, UN GAOR, 54th Sess, UN Doc A/RES/54/4 (1999). See United Nations Division for the Advancement of Women, Signatures to and Ratifications of the Optional Protocol, United Nations, at <http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/cedaw/sigop.htm> (last visited Mar. 12, 2004).

58. Id.

59. See Center for Reproductive Rights (2004) ‘Human Rights Committee Petitioned with Reproductive Rights Case’ (last visited April 12, 2004). This is the only case I have found in my research that brings a reproductive rights complaint to the attention of the HRC.

60. Id.

61. See Statistical Survey, supra, n 55.

62. See Ratifications of ICCPR, supra, n 54.

63. See id.

64. ICCPR, supra n 22, Art 6.

65. International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights General Comment 6, The right to life (Article 6), UN ESCOR Human Rights Commission, 16th Sess, International Human Rights Instruments, 1, UN Doc HRI/GEN/1/Rev. 1 (1994) [hereinafter General Comment 6]. The full text of General Comment 6 can be found in Appendix A, infra.

66. Id. at ¶ 5.

67. Cook & Fathalla, supra n 2, p 117.

68. Id.

69. See Safe Motherhood Report, supra n 1.

70. See id.

71. Cook, R J (1992) ‘International Protection of Women's Reproductive Rights’, New York University Journal of International Law and Policy 24, p 689.

72. See Cook and Fathalla, supra, n 2, pp 117–118.

73. Cook, R J, supra, n 70 (quoting Robinson, Nehemiah (1958). The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Its Origins, Its Significance and Interpretation, p 106, 2nd ed.

74. Id. at 657 (citing Alston,Philip (1984)Conjuring Up New Human Rights: A Proposal for Quality Control’, American Journal of International Law 78, p 607.

75. See ICCPR, supra note 22, art. 6.

76. Cook, supra note 70, at 689.

77. ICCPR, supra note 22, art. 40(1).

78. See id. at art. 40(4).

79. Alston and Steiner, supra, n 14, p 522.

80. Id. at 524.

81. General Comment 6, supra n 64, at 5.

82 . Concluding Observations of the Human Rights Committee: Algeria, UN ESCOR Hum Rts Comm, Concluding Observations/Comments, at 6, UN Doc CCPR/C/79/Add 95 (1998).

83. Concluding Observations of the Human Rights Committee: Colombia, UN ESCOR Hum Rts Comm, Concluding Observations/Comments, at 16, UN Doc CCPR/C/79/Add.76 (1997).

84 . Concluding Observations of the Human Rights Committee: Sudan, UN ESCOR Hum Rts Comm, Concluding Observations/Comments, at 8, UN Doc CCPR/C/79/Add 85 (1997).

85. Concluding Observations of the Human Rights Committee: Bolivia, UN ESCOR Hum Rts Comm, Concluding Observations/Comments, at 22, UN Doc CCPR/C/79/Add 74 (1997).

86. Concluding Observations of the Human Rights Committee: Costa Rica, UN ESCOR Hum Rts Comm, Concluding Observations/Comments, at 11, UN Doc CCPR/C/79/Add107 (1999).

87. Concluding Observations of the Human Rights Committee: Colombia, supra n 82, at 37.

88. Concluding Observations of the Human Rights Committee: Japan, UN ESCOR Hum Rts Comm, Concluding Observations/Comments, at 30, UN Doc CCPR/C/79/Add102 (1998).

90. General Comment 6, supra n 64, at 5.

91. See Concluding Observations of the Human Rights Committee: Nepal, UN ESCOR Hum Rts Comm, Concluding Observations/Comments, at 8, 12-19, UN Doc 10/11/94, CCPR/C/79/Add42 (1994).

92. See id.

93. Concluding Observations of the Human Rights Committee: Peru, UN ESCOR Hum Rts Comm, Concluding Observations/Comments, at 15, UN Doc CCPR/C/79/Add72 (1996).

94. Concluding Observations of the Human Rights Committee: Senegal, UN ESCOR Hum Rts Comm., Concluding Observations/Comments, at 12, UN Doc CCPR/C/79/Add82. (1997). Article 7 of the ICCPR states: ‘No one shall be subject to torture or to cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment.’ See ICCPR, supra n 22, Art 7.

95. Concluding Observations of the Human Rights Committee: Sudan, supra n 83, at 10.

96. Id. Article 24(1) of the ICCPR states: ‘Every child shall have, without any discrimination as to race, colour, sex, language, religion, national or social origin, property or birth, the right to such measures of protection as are required by his status as a minor, on the part of his family, society, and the state.’ ICCPR, supra n 22, Art 24(1).

97. Concluding Observations of the Human Rights Committee: United Republic of Tanzania, U.N. ESCOR Hum Rts Comm, Concluding Observations/Comments, at 15, UN Doc CCPR/C/79/Add 97. (1998).

98. Concluding Observations of the Human Rights Committee: Trinidad and Tobago, UN ESCOR Hum Rts Comm, Concluding Observations/Comments, at 57, UN Doc CCPR/CO/70/TTO/Add 1 (2001).

99 . Concluding Observations of the Human Rights Committee: Venezuela, UN ESCOR Hum Rts Comm, Concluding Observations/Comments, at 19, UN Doc CCPR/CO/71/VEN (2001).

100. Concluding Observations of the Human Rights Committee: Sri Lanka, UN ESCOR Hum Rts Comm, Concluding Observations/Comments, at 12, UN Doc CCPR/CO/79/LKA (2003).

101. See Concluding Observations of the Human Rights Committee: India, UN ESCOR Hum Rts Comm, Concluding Observations/Comments, at 16, UN Doc CCPR/C/79/Add.81 (1997).

102. Cook, supra note 70, at 690.

103. Id.

104. Id.

105. Dickens, Bernard M (1997) ‘Conflicts Between Protecting and Respecting Women: the Prohibition of Sex-selected Birth’, Humane Health Care International 13, pp 14, 14 (1997).

106. Id.

107. ICCPR, supra n 22, Art 3.

108. Concluding Observations of the Human Rights Committee: Democratic People's Republic of Korea, UN ESCOR Hum Rts Comm, Concluding Observations/Comments, at 12, UN Doc CCPR/CO/72/PRK (2001) (emphasis added).

109. Concluding Observations of the Human Rights Committee: Hungary, UN ESCOR Hum Rts Comm, Concluding Observations/Comments, at 11, UN Doc CCPR/CO/74/HUN (2002).

110. Concluding Observations of the Human Rights Committee: Sweden, UN ESCOR Hum Rts Comm, Concluding Observations/Comments, at 8, UN Doc CCPR/CO/74/SWE (2002).

111. Concluding Observations of the Human Rights Committee: Uzbekistan, UN ESCOR Hum Rts Comm, Concluding Observations/Comments, at 19, UN Doc CCPR/CO/71/UZB (2001).

112. Sadasivam, supra n 42, p 326.

113. See id.

114. See id.

115. See id.

116. See Concluding Observations of the Human Rights Committee: Mali, UN ESCOR Hum Rts Comm, Concluding Observations/Comments, at 14, UN Doc CCPR/CO/77/MLI (2003).

117. Cook, supra, n 70, p 659 (quoting Beauchamp, Tom L and Fadan, Ruth R (1979) ‘The Right to Health and the Right to Health Care’, Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 4 pp 118, 120).

118. Id. pp 659-660.

119. Id.

120. Id p 660.

121. Id.

122. Id. p 659.

123. See Concluding Observations of the Human Rights Committee: Mali, supra, n 115.

124. Concluding Observations of the Human Rights Committee: Armenia, UN ESCOR Hum Rts Comm, Concluding Observations/Comments, at 16, UN Doc CCPR/C/79/Add.100 (1998).

125. Concluding Observations of the Human Rights Committee: Chile, UN ESCOR Hum Rts Comm, Concluding Observations/Comments, ¶ 15, U.N. Doc. CCPR/C/79/Add.104 (1999).

126. Concluding Observations of the Human Rights Committee: Costa Rica, supra n 85, at 12 (emphasis added).

127. Concluding Observations of the Human Rights Committee: Lithuania, UN ESCOR Hum Rts Comm, Concluding Observations/Comments, at 11, UN Doc CCPR/C/79/Add.87 (1997).

128. Id.

129. Concluding Observations of the Human Rights Committee: Ecuador, UN ESCOR Hum Rts Comm, Concluding Observations/Comments, at 11, UN Doc CCPR/C/79/Add 92 (1998).

130. Id. at ¶ 10.

131. Id. at ¶ 11.

132. Concluding Observations of the Human Rights Committee: Peru, supra n 92, at 22.

133. Concluding Observations of the Human Rights Committee: Lesotho, UN ESCOR Hum Rts Comm, Concluding Observations/Comments, at 11, UN Doc CCPR/C/79/Add 106. (1999).

134. Concluding Observations of the Human Rights Committee: Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, UN ESCOR Hum Rts Comm, Concluding Observations/Comments, at 9, 17, UN Doc CCPR/C/79/Add.101 (1998).

135. See id.

136. See generally Concluding Observations of the Human Rights Committee: India, supra n 100.

137. Id. at 16.

138. Id. (emphasis added).

139. Id.

140. See generally Concluding Observations of the Human Rights Committee: Iraq, UN ESCOR Hum Rts Comm, Concluding Observations/Comments, UN Doc CCPR/C/79/Add 84 (1997).

141. Id. at ¶ 6.

142. Concluding Observations of the Human Rights Committee: Sudan, supra n 83, p 10.

143 . Id.

144. Concluding Observations of the Human Rights Committee: India, supra n 100.

145. Concluding Observations of the Human Rights Committee: Mali, supra n 115.

146. The Concluding Observations on Colombia state that violence against women is a major threat to their life. See Concluding Observations of the Human Rights Committee: Columbia, supra n 82. The observations on Peru state that the lax provisions dealing with rape affect a woman's right to life. See Concluding Observations of the Human Rights Committee: Peru, supra n92. The observations on Senegal state that FGM violates Article 6. See Concluding Observations of the Human Rights Committee: Senegal, supra n 93. The Concluding Observations on Nepal state that the low life expectancy of women is a concern. See Concluding Observations of the Human Rights Committee: Nepal, supra n 90.

147. Lori Heise, Reproductive Freedom and Violence Against Women: Where are the Intersections?, 21 J.L. Med. & Ethics 206, 206 (1993).

148. Id. at 211.

149. See generally World Health Organisation, Safe Motherhood: A Matter of Human Rights and Social Justice, at http://www.who.int/archives/whday/en/pages1998/whd98_03.html (last visited Feb. 24, 2004).

150. Heise, supra n 146, p 208.

151. Id.

152. See id. p 209.

153. Concluding Observations of the Human Rights Committee: Jamaica, UN ESCOR Hum Rts Comm, Concluding Observations/Comments, at 12, UN Doc CCPR/C/79/Add 83 (1997).

154. Id.

155. Concluding Observations of the Human Rights Committee: Uzbekistan, supra n 110,

at 19 (emphasis added).



156. Concluding Observations of the Human Rights Committee: Columbia, supra n 82, ¶ 37.

157. Id.

158. Concluding Observations of the Human Rights Committee: Ecuador, supra n 128, at11.

159. Concluding Observations of the Human Rights Committee: Vietnam, UN ESCOR Hum Rts Comm, Concluding Observations/Comments, at 15, UN Doc CCPR/CO/75/VNM (2002).

160. Id.

161. Heise, supra n 146, at 212.

162. Concluding Observations of the Human Rights Committee: Lesotho, supra n 132, at 12.

163. Id.

164. Concluding Observations of the Human Rights Committee: Sweden, supra n 109, at 8.

165. Boland, Reed (1997). Promoting Reproductive Rights: A Global Mandate, Anika Rahman, ed. p 29.

166. Id.

167. Concluding Observations of the Human Rights Committee: Nepal, supra note 90, at 13.

168. Concluding Observations of the Human Rights Committee: Nigeria, UN ESCOR Hum Rts Comm, Concluding Observations/Comments, at 291, 296, UN Doc CCPR/C/79/Add.65 (1996).

169. Concluding Observations of the Human Rights Committee: Paraguay, UN ESCOR Hum Rts Comm, Concluding Observations/Comments, at 207, 218, U.N. Doc. CCPR/C/79/Add.48 (1995).

170. Concluding Observations of the Human Rights Committee: Senegal, supra n 93, at 12.

171. Id. at p 13.

172. Concluding Observations of the Human Rights Committee: Zimbabwe, UN ESCOR Hum Rts Comm, Concluding Observations/Comments, at 14, 15, UN Doc CCPR/C/79/Add.89 (1998).

173. Cook, supra n 70, p 651.

174. Chapman, Audrey R (1995) ‘Monitoring Women's Right to Health Under the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights’, American University Law Review 44, pp 1157, 1158–59.

175. Concluding Observations of the Human Rights Committee: Paraguay, supra n 168, at 208 (stating that the HRC regrets that Paraguay failed to provide it with information showing the effect of the abortion laws on maternal mortality).

176. The World Health Organisation is taking the lead in the current exploration of the relationship between health indicators and human rights standards. For example, there has been a recent initiative to develop a common set of indicators to monitor global health goals and targets in reproductive and sexual health. These indicators have the potential to help provide a universal measure of governmental compliance with international human rights treaties. Poor reproductive and sexual health indicators often signal violations or under-fulfillment of human rights. See generally UN Treaty Monitoring Bodies, supra n 34, p 30.

177. See Concluding Observations of the Human Rights Committee: Peru, supra n 92.

178. See Concluding Observations of the Human Rights Committee: India, supra n 100.

179. Concluding Observations of the Human Rights Committee: Peru, supra n 92, at 13, 15, 22.

180. See id. at 13.

181. Id.

182. See id.

183. See id. at 15.

184. Id.

185. See id.

186. See id.

187. See id. at 22.

188. Id.

189. See id.

190. Concluding Observations of the Human Rights Committee: India, supra n 100.

191. Id. at 16.

192. See id.

193. Id.

194. Id.

195. Id. at 17, 23, 31, 32.

196. See generally Concluding Observations of the Human Rights Committee: Iraq, supra n 139.

197. See generally Concluding Observations of the Human Rights Committee: Nigeria, supra n 167.

198. Osakue, Grace and Martin-Hilber, Adraine (1998) ‘Women's Sexuality and Fertility in Nigeria’, in Petcbesky, Rosalind and Judd, Karen (eds) Negotiating Reproductive Rights: Women’s Perspectives Across Countries and Cultures, pp 180, 183.

199. Id. at 183.

200. d. at 185, 297.

201. Petchesky and Judd (1998), supra n 44, p 10.

202 The matter of the difficulty inherent in enforcing international law, and punishing states for failing to comply with treaty obligations, is incredibly important and merits further discussion. Unfortunately, space constraints prevent me from examining this issue in more detail in this paper. However, I am postponing this discussion to a later work.

203. World Health Organisation, World Health Day: Safe Motherhood: A Matter of Human Rights and Social Justice, < http://www.who.int/archives/whday/en/pages1998/whd98_03.html>, supra n 1.

204. See id.

205. See id.

206. Today, more and more resources are being allocated at the country level, as opposed to at the international level. This means that governments still are the primary agents that determine how to divide up a country’s budget, and how to allocate money between sectors such as health care, education, military expenses, etc. Governments are also the only agents that can be held responsible for failing to live up to their treaty obligations, hence the importance of focusing on governments to ensure women’s reproductive rights. However, one also cannot ignore the reality that the idea of the state as the provider of necessary welfare services is shrinking in this age of globalization, trade obligations, and structural adjustment. As a consequence, calls have been made to require that bodies such as trans-national corporations also play a role in ensuring and fulfilling women’s human rights. This is a vital issue that needs further exploration and cannot be adequately assessed in this paper.

207. Sadasivam, supra n 42, p 345.

208. See id.

209. Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, General Recommendation 24: Women and Health, UN ESCOR Hum Rts Comm, 20th Sess, at 14, UN Doc HRI/GEN/1/Rev.5 (2001) (hereinafter ‘CEDAW’).

210. See id.

211. Id. at 14.

212. International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, supra n 21.

213. See generally UN Treaty Monitoring Bodies, supra n 34.

214. Id. p 22.

215. See id.

216. Id. p 31.

217. General Comment 6, supra n 64.

218. Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Status of Ratifications of the Principal International Human Rights Treaties, supra n 52.

219. See Women’s Convention, supra n 23.


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