On June 4, 2010, during the 14th session of the Human Rights Council, the United Nation’s Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health, Anand Grover, presented reports on Poland and India. The report called on both countries to improve the situation for sexual and reproductive health and rights. The Center proactively participated in the preparation of these two reports and intervened orally before the Human Rights Council in support of his recommendations.
The Rapporteur Calls on Poland to Improve Access to Safe Abortion, Sex Education and Contraception
The Special Rapporteur visited Poland in May 2009 to examine the situation of sexual and reproductive health and harm reduction policies relating to drug use and HIV/AIDS. In the report, Grover emphasized the need to improve access to and quality of legal abortion, sexuality education and contraception. He also noted that access to these services is severely obstructed by state law, policy, and non-state agencies’ institutional involvement, such as the church.
Highlighted in the report is the European Court of Human Rights decision in Tysiąc v. Poland, which calls attention to the obstacles women face when trying to get legal abortions. In the Tysiąc case, Poland was found to have breached Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights* in failing to institute an appeals procedure for women who refused an abortion. The European Court ruled for compensation to Ms. Tysiąc and a procedure of appeals to be established.
Since 2007, the Polish government hasn’t fully complied with the decision, and Grover emphasizes this lack of compliance and called on the state to improve access to legal abortion. Further conclusions of the report include a need for greater access to affordable contraception and evidence-based sexuality education in schools.
The Center were friends-of-the-court in theTysiac v Poland case and have been monitoring state implementation of the decision through interventions at the Council of Europe.Read the Tysiac v. Poland: Ensuring Effective Access to Legal Abortion >,
Maternal Mortality in India through a Human Rights Lens
The former UN Special Rapporteur, Paul Hunt, conducted a mission to India in winter 2007 to examine the situation of maternal mortality through a human rights lens. This report, and its supplementary note, focuses on the states of Rajasthan and Maharashtra, looking at the health workforce, monitoring, accountability, and redress. Hunt emphasized that, “For a middle-income country of its stature and level of development, the rate of maternal deaths in India is shocking.” More than 100,000 women die each year from pregnancy-related causes, making India the country with the highest number of maternal deaths worldwide.
The report highlights the Center’s publication, Maternal Mortality in India: Using International Law to Promote Accountability and Change, as an important study concerning the need to improve monitoring, accountability, and redress in relation to maternal mortality in India. The Center’s study draws from a human rights analysis urging India to increase government records of maternal mortality and strengthen regulations, including by introducing accountability measures where implementation has failed.
Hunt’s report documents several barriers to maternal health care in India, including a lack of data on the causes of maternal deaths, a failure to invest adequate public funds into maternal health programs and to utilize such funds efficiently, and a lack of “urgent, focused, sustained, systematic, and effective implementation, reinforced by robust independent monitoring, accountability, and redress.”
The report states that “there is overwhelming evidence that India faces a massive, crippling crisis in its health workforce.” Throughout India, especially in Rajasthan and Maharashtra, there is a lack of qualified doctors and skilled birth attendants trained in family planning, prenatal care, and delivery. In addition, most healthcare facilities lack specialists, the report named anesthetists and obstetricians in particular, and adequate technical support from the government. Hunt advises India to invest in the advancement of service distribution, staff and funding, and accessibility. He further recommends that India establish an independent body to collect and analyze data on maternal deaths and on emergency obstetric care indicators.
The Special Rapporteur concluded that decrease in maternal mortality in India is the instrument towards an overall better health institution.
* Article 8 provides a right to respect for one’s “private and family life, his home and his correspondence,” subject to certain restrictions that are “in accordance with law” and “necessary in a democratic society.”