95. Bearing in mind the above definition, reproductive rights embrace certain human rights that are already recognized in national laws, international human rights documents and other consensus documents. These rights rest on the recognition of the basic right of all couples and individuals to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing and timing of their children and to have the information and means to do so, and the right to attain the highest standard of sexual and reproductive health. It also includes their right to make decisions concerning reproduction free of discrimination, coercion and violence, as expressed in human rights documents. In the exercise of this right, they should take into account the needs of their living and future children and their responsibilities towards the community. The promotion of the responsible exercise of these rights for all people should be the fundamental basis for government- and community-supported policies and programmes in the area of reproductive health, including family planning. As part of their commitment, full attention should be given to the promotion of mutually respectful and equitable gender relations and particularly to meeting the educational and service needs of adolescents to enable them to deal in a positive and responsible way with their sexuality. Reproductive health eludes many of the world's people because of such factors as: inadequate levels of knowledge about human sexuality and inappropriate or poor-quality reproductive health information and services; the prevalence of high-risk sexual behaviour; discriminatory social practices; negative attitudes towards women and girls; and the limited power many women and girls have over their sexual and reproductive lives. Adolescents are particularly vulnerable because of their lack of information and access to relevant services in most countries. Older women and men have distinct reproductive and sexual health issues which are often inadequately addressed.
96. The human rights of women include their right to have control over and decide freely and responsibly on matters related to their sexuality, including sexual and reproductive health, free of coercion, discrimination and violence. Equal relationships between women and men in matters of sexual relations and reproduction, including full respect for the integrity of the person, require mutual respect, consent and shared responsibility for sexual behaviour and its consequences.
97. Further, women are subject to particular health risks due to inadequate responsiveness and lack of services to meet health needs related to sexuality and reproduction. Complications related to pregnancy and childbirth are among the leading causes of mortality and morbidity of women of reproductive age in many parts of the developing world. Similar problems exist to a certain degree in some countries with economies in transition. Unsafe abortions threaten the lives of a large number of women, representing a grave public health problem as it is primarily the poorest and youngest who take the highest risk. Most of these deaths, health problems and injuries are preventable through improved access to adequate health-care services, including safe and effective family planning methods and emergency obstetric care, recognizing the right of women and men to be informed and to have access to safe, effective, affordable and acceptable methods of family planning of their choice, as well as other methods of their choice for regulation of fertility which are not against the law, and the right of access to appropriate health-care services that will enable women to go safely through pregnancy and childbirth and provide couples with the best chance of having a healthy infant.
These problems and means should be addressed on the basis of the report of the International Conference on Population and Development, with particular reference to relevant paragraphs of the Programme of Action of the Conference. In most countries, the neglect of women's reproductive rights severely limits their opportunities in public and private life, including opportunities for education and economic and political empowerment. The ability of women to control their own fertility forms an important basis for the enjoyment of other rights. Shared responsibility between women and men in matters related to sexual and reproductive behaviour is also essential to improving women's health.
Actions to be taken
107. By Governments, in cooperation with non-governmental organizations, the mass media, the
private sector and relevant international organizations, including United Nations bodies, as
(a) Give priority to both formal and informal educational programmes that support and
enable women to develop self-esteem, acquire knowledge, make decisions on and take
responsibility for their own health, achieve mutual respect in matters concerning
sexuality and fertility and educate men regarding the importance of women's health and
well-being, placing special focus on programmes for both men and women that
emphasize the elimination of harmful attitudes and practices, including female genital
mutilation, son preference (which results in female infanticide and prenatal sex
selection), early marriage, including child marriage, violence against women, sexual
exploitation, sexual abuse, which at times is conducive to infection with HIV/AIDS and
other sexually transmitted diseases, drug abuse, discrimination against girls and women
in food allocation and other harmful attitudes and practices related to the life, health and
well- being of women, and recognizing that some of these practices can be violations of
human rights and ethical medical principles;
(b) Pursue social, human development, education and employment policies to eliminate
poverty among women in order to reduce their susceptibility to ill health and to improve
(c) Encourage men to share equally in child care and household work and to provide their
share of financial support for their families, even if they do not live with them;
(d) Reinforce laws, reform institutions and promote norms and practices that eliminate
discrimination against women and encourage both women and men to take
responsibility for their sexual and reproductive behaviour, ensure full respect for the
integrity of the person, take action to ensure the conditions necessary for women to
exercise their reproductive rights and eliminate coercive laws and practices;
216. The World Conference on Human Rights reaffirmed clearly that the human rights of women
throughout the life cycle are an inalienable, integral and indivisible part of universal human rights. The
International Conference on Population and Development reaffirmed women's reproductive rights
and the right to development. Both the Declaration of the Rights of the Child and the Convention on
the Rights of the Child guarantee children's rights and uphold the principle of non-discrimination on
the grounds of gender.