Health Rights:

Women suffer from the same diseases that affect men. However, women’s disease patterns often differ because of their genetic constitution, the influence of hormones, and gender-based role patterns. Gender roles make women more vulnerable to certain conditions that affect their health: for example, domestic violence or simply their ability to stand up for their health needs. In that respect, the freedom to control one’s body and mind is an important element of women’s right to health. Hence, gender equality plays a key role in the realisation of women’s health rights. In addition, women have specific health needs related to sexual and reproductive functions. Their reproductive systems can cause health problems, even before they start to function (girls) and still when they cease to function (older women). On the other hand, although this forms part of women’s health, it is important to note that this reflects only a part of their health rights.

The right to Health and the Rights of Women are defined in various Human Rights Treaties. The right to Health is defined under the Covenant on Economic Cultural and Social Rights (1966), and women’s rights issues are mostly covered in the Convention to Eliminate All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW, 1979).

There are many civil society organisations in the South and North that fight for the realisation of health rights of women. To support the work of these organisations, Rights for Change promotes the use of the Health Rights of Women Assessment Instrument (HeRWAI). With this tool, organisations can systematically evaluate the effectiveness of national health policies for women. They can then make concrete recommendations to their governments on how the health policy could be improved. To learn more about HeRWAI please follow this link.

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