(Guatemala City - Guatemala, March 23) United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right of everyone to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, Anand Grover, visited Guatemala City on March 22 and 23 to participate in the civil society consultation for Central America, Mexico and the Spanish-Speaking Caribbean. The Special Rapporteur has previously held consultations in South America and Nepal. Mr. Grover is a practicing lawyer in the Bombay court and the Supreme Courts of India and is director of the NGO Lawyers Collective. He is a pioneer in the field of HIV law and has won several hundred HIV/AIDS related litigations in India.
The consultation was coordinated by Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) and the Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR), which convened a group of 40 experts on different health issues from national, regional and international civil society organizations from Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, and Nicaragua.
This consultation provided a forum for civil society in the region to discuss critical issues related to the respect, protection, promotion and guarantee of the right to health. Some of the issues discussed were access to health services, health systems and budgets, accountability, civil society's participation in the adoption of public policies, sexual and reproductive rights, HIV/AIDS, mental health, workplace health and the impact of free trade agreements on the Right to Health. The participants informed the Rapporteur about some of the obstacles that women, children, adolescents, migrants, indigenous people and people with disabilities face due to discrimination and inequality.
For PPFA and CRR, it was especially important that sexual and reproductive rights, including access to safe and legal abortion, were a priority and cross-cutting issue. The activists underlined the importance of the right to health and the interdependence between that right and other human rights, such as the right to food, the right to be free from violence and the right to adequate housing. The Rapporteur stated that "Sexual and reproductive rights are an integral part of the right to health and an entry point to eliminate the historic discrimination that women continue to face in the region. In Central America, Mexico and the Spanish Caribbean it seems to be very important to address the situation of violence against women and the legal barriers that are restricting women's access to sexual and reproductive health services including abortion, which is one of the main causes of maternal mortality in this region".
The Rapporteur highlighted the relevance of civil society's active participation and empowerment in ensuring that his mandate is effective and able to advance policies, laws and practices related to the right to health. For Mr. Grover, this consultation represented an important opportunity for the region's organizations to become knowledgeable about his mandate and allowed him an opportunity to hear firsthand accounts of the principal health-related challenges in the region.
Thanks to the exchange brought about by this consultation, the participants were able to identify regional and national priorities related to the right to health and to offer Mr. Grover specific suggestions for furthering health as a human right. PPFA and CRR will produce a report that includes all the presentations and identified priorities, which can be used as an advocacy tool for civil society organizations. PPFA and CRR also will provide follow-up on the specific petitions made to the Special Rapporteur relating to sexual and reproductive health and their intersections with other aspects of the right to health.