Women’s Health, Sexual and Reproductive Rights

May 19, 2017

Access to affordable and relevant health services and to accurate, comprehensive health information are fundamental human rights. Yet, gender-based discrimination, lack of access to education, poverty, and violence against women and girls can all prevent these rights from being realized for women and girls — challenges that are often particularly acute when it comes to sexual and reproductive health rights and safe motherhood.

All women have the right to accessible, affordable and adequate health care that takes into account their cultural needs. They have the right to access health care without discrimination. And they have the right to health care that responds to their particular needs as women. Sexual and reproductive health encompasses a range of prevention and treatment services. Examples include: accurate information about HIV transmission; the ability to choose whether and when to get pregnant; response to violence against women; and services for sexually transmitted infections and reproductive tract illnesses, such as cervical cancer. Access to these services is part and parcel to the universal right to the highest attainable standard of health, yet, because these services are basic care only for women and girls, their protection requires special attention.
One of the most important fronts in the struggle for women’s human rights is around sexual and reproductive autonomy, and the coercive and often violent ways in which that autonomy is suppressed. For example, women and girls may be forcibly sterilized because they have HIV, were born with intersex conditions, or are a member of a repressed ethnic group, or they may be subjected to virginity testing. Sometimes coercion takes the form of a lack of access to basic health care and contraception.

Maternal Health

Maternal health is an important part of sexual and reproductive health and rights. Worldwide, one woman dies every 90 seconds in pregnancy or childbirth – more than 350,000 women each year. The vast majority of these deaths are preventable. Lack of education about pregnancy or access to trained caregivers for ante-natal care and assisted delivery are driven by gender–based discrimination. In addition, violence against women increases during pregnancy. Learn More about Maternal Health as a human right.

My Body, My Rights

Amnesty has launched the My Body, My Rights campaign to help protect the rights all people have to their bodies. Women and girls are especially vulnerable to human rights violations regarding their sexual and reproductive health. Find out more at our My Body, My Rights Campaign.