Advancing women's reproductive and sexual health rights: using the International Human Rights system

Often the primary barriers to improving women's health are rooted in socio-economic, legal, and cultural factors. Women are generally assigned subordinate status in terms of economic power, decision making, and options regarding education, work, and family. National laws often restrict or prohibit equality and choice within society. Thus, the improvement of reproductive health is not only a matter of effective health interventions, but also a matter of social justice and human rights. This article discusses how the international human rights (IHR) system can be used more effectively for the protection and promotion of reproductive rights. In particular, it focuses how IHR treaties can play an important role in fostering state compliance with rights relating to reproductive and sexual health. It ends with a discussion on how NGO advocacy work can better collaborate with the treaty body monitoring process in order to advance women's reproductive rights.