Image, Guttmacher-Lancet Commission: Health & Rights

We Can't Advance Health Without Advancing Rights

Kate Gilmore is the UN Commission on Human Rights' representative on the Advisory Group to the Guttmacher-Lancet Commission on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights.

 

Seventy years ago, amidst the rubble and ruin of the world wars’ aftermath, world leaders proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, affirming that we are all born equal in dignity and rights. It was the same year that the World Health Organization was established. Seven decades on, the legacy of those decisions has meant tremendous progress globally.

Today, the right to health is underpinned in law and understood to be indispensable to a life of dignity and well-being. In turn, universal human rights to nondiscrimination, information, participation, and consent are recognized broadly as necessary for the enjoyment of the right to health.

However, progress has not been inclusive.

When it comes to sexual and reproductive health and rights, at times progress has met resistance and even outright hostility. Hostility has been directed against, for example, the rights of women to have control over their own bodies and in their own lives. While preventable maternal and infant mortality and HIV transmission have decreased, these gains are tenuous so long as governments fail to embrace a comprehensive agenda for sexual and reproductive health and rights.

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