Monday, July 03, 2006

Sterilization is a Human Right

World Childfree Association Takes Action
Sterilization is a human right. This human right was laid down by the United Nations Human Rights Committee in General Comment 28: Equality of Rights Between Men and Women (art. 3) (68e Sess, 2000) in compilation of General Comments and General Recommendations by Human Rights Treaty Bodies, at 168, U.N. Doc. HRI/GEN/1/Rev. 5. Article 20 of this document says:

States parties must provide information to enable the Committee to assess the effect of any laws and practices that may interfere with women's right to enjoy privacy and other rights protected by article 17 on the basis of equality with men. An example of such interference arises where the sexual life of a woman is taken into consideration in deciding the extent of her legal rights and protections, including protection against rape. Another area where States may fail to respect women's privacy relates to their reproductive functions, for example, where there is a requirement for the husband's authorization to make a decision in regard to sterilization; where general requirements are imposed for the sterilization of women, such as having a certain number of children or being of a certain age, or where States impose a legal duty upon doctors and other health personnel to report cases of women who have undergone abortion. In these instances, other rights in the Covenant, such as those of articles 6 and 7, might also be at stake. Women's privacy may also be interfered with by private actors, such as employers who request a pregnancy test before hiring a woman. States parties should report on any laws and public or private actions that interfere with the equal enjoyment by women of the rights under article 17, and on the measures taken to eliminate such interference and to afford women protection from any such interference.
Please visit the WCA page to hear about their petition to the HRC. Although the decisions of these bodies have no legally binding force, countries interested in maintaining membership, preventing embarassment, or avoiding scrutiny will occasionally comply with its decisions. I am not sure whether the WCA action against the Netherlands will carry any such force.

The U.S. policymakers are not influenced in this way (much American mindset is dead set against it) but bringing action against the U.S. could be a good way to bring attention to the cause. Note that treaties since signed and ratified by the U.S. (as this is) could be used to challenge these state laws in federal court, but the ICCPR is specifically not self-executing, preventing this use.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I am doing a paper on this topic. If you have any information on it, please email me at