Women’s Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights in Europe
Sexual and reproductive health rights, including the right to sexual and reproductive health, are intrinsic elements of the human rights framework and effective state action to guarantee sexual and reproductive health and rights is imperative. sexual and reproductive rights, including the right to sexual and reproductive health, are intrinsic elements of the human rights framework and eﬀective state Without it, some of the most significant and intimate aspects of our lives as human beings are at risk. Our ability to make autonomous and informed decisions about our bodies, our health, our sexuality, and whether or not to reproduce, is undermined. In recent decades, considerable global progress has been made in the sphere of women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights and towards the elimination of related forms of discrimination and Council of Europe member states have long been at the vanguard of these eﬀorts. However, notwithstanding important progress, women in Europe continue to face widespread denials and infringements of their sexual and reproductive health and rights. Laws, policies and practices in Europe still curtail and undermine women’s sexual and reproductive health, autonomy, dignity, integrity and decision-making in serious ways. Moreover, in recent years, resurgent threats to women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights have emerged in some parts of the region. These have sought to call into question and erode longstanding commitments to gender equality and the universality of women’s rights. In some member states, laws and policies have sought to roll back existing protections for women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights, in particular through the introduction of retrogressive restrictions on access to abortion and contraception. Courts in a number of countries have also been confronted with legal challenges threatening women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights. The backlash has also aﬀected the work of many human rights defenders and health care providers working to advance women’s rights. This issue paper considers each of these concerns and challenges from a human rights perspective, against the backdrop of member states’ human rights obligations as enshrined in international and European human rights instruments and as elaborated and interpreted by human rights mechanisms. As widely recognized by human rights mechanisms, member states’ obligations to advance and protect women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights are core components of their obligation to respect and guarantee women’s human rights and advance gender equality.