Friday, January 24, 2020 | News

Ipas’s human rights and women’s rights advocacy work

Reproductive rights, including abortion rights, are human rights. That’s why Ipas advocates with UN human rights treaty bodies—committees of field experts who monitor the implementation of core international human rights provisions—to influence policies and ensure that the rights of women and girls are upheld.

“The information that Ipas shares with human rights treaty monitoring bodies influences the recommendations those bodies make to governments, which can lead to real change,” says Elizabeth Guthrie, Ipas senior advisor for policy and advocacy. “Our work in the field gives us a deep understanding of how restricting access to safe abortion causes harm and violates human rights.”

Highlights from Ipas’s 2019 human rights advocacy work include:

Contributions to treaty monitoring bodies, including the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW):

  • Ipas advocated for decriminalization of self-managed abortion in CEDAW’s concluding observations and general recommendations. “Although the practice of self-managed abortion is growing and making abortion outside the clinical setting safer, most countries’ laws criminalize it,” says Ipas Senior Legal Advisor Patty Skuster. “We are working with global authorities toward a world where people can self-manage their abortion without threat of arrest or imprisonment.”
  • Ipas Mozambique Senior Policy Advisor Julania Langa traveled to Geneva to participate in meetings with CEDAW committee members. As a result, the committee recommended that the State party of Mozambique strengthen efforts to increase health facilities and trained health providers in rural areas and ensure confidential access to safe abortion and postabortion services.
  • Ipas DRC sponsored a Congolese advocate to represent civil society at CEDAW along with Ipas Senior Policy Advisor Jeanne Hefez. After the meeting, CEDAW recommended decriminalizing abortion—in line with the Maputo Protocol—and ensuring women and girls have access to accurate sexual and reproductive health and rights information.

Inputs to obstetric violence report

Ipas submitted inputs to a report on obstetric violence by the Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women, Dubravka Šimonović. The report urged states to repeal laws which criminalize abortion in all circumstances and abolish mandatory authorizations (from husbands, relatives or others) for women seeking reproductive health services.

Ipas Senior Policy and Advocacy Advisor Bia Galli says, “This report is a significant step for our advocacy work to improve women’s and girls’ access to safe abortion care inside and outside health facilities according to global human rights standards. In the field of abortion access and rights, institutional violence has always existed across a spectrum and especially targets marginalized women and girls seeking abortion care.”

Shadow letters

Shadow letters shed light on human rights violations and can help inform discussions between human rights bodies and governments. In 2019, Ipas submitted shadow letters to inform the Human Rights Committee’s review of Mexico, the Committee Against Torture’s review of Mexico and CEDAW’s review of Mozambique.

Looking ahead

Through our work with global human rights bodies, Ipas has continued to push governments to expand access to abortion through pressure generated during human rights reporting processes. Ipas in-country teams often rely on human rights standards to advocate for reforming restrictive abortion laws and removing barriers to safe abortion care in national-level laws and policies.

“In 2020 and beyond, we will continue engaging with treaty monitoring bodies to bring violations to light and to hold governments accountable to their legal obligations to respect, protect, and fulfill human rights,” says Guthrie.

For more information, contact media@ipas.org