Promotion and Protection of Women’s Right to Sexual and Reprouctive Health Under Ethiopian Law

Kidus Meskele Ashine


A woman’s right to sexual and reproductive health is an essential element of international human rights law. According to this body of law, States are required to take all appropriate measures to respect, protect, and fulfill that right. In addition, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against women (CEDAW) obliges States to pursue this right within the context of a broader policy aimed at the elimination of discrimination against women and the removal of all female stereotypes.

Worldwide there is a growing recognition of the health damage inflicted on women and men as a direct or indirect result of human rights violations.[1] Unlike men, however, women not only have to fear human rights violations because they are human beings, but also because of their gender. The vulnerability of women to human rights violation as well as to health damage is often perpetuated by repressive laws. In this respect it should be noted that sexuality and reproductive health issues – including ages of consent, homosexuality and bisexuality, abortion, and other matters are often exclusively defined within the realm of the criminal law system even though they are presented as threats to individuals or public health.

The health and human rights impacts of both sexuality and reproductive health are now widely known. This has not, however, always resulted in legal reform and the abolition of outdated laws.[2] In spite of slow progress, however, there is an undeniable, worldwide reappraisal of health as human rights issues.

Ethiopia has shown its commitment to protect and promote the women’s sexual and reproductive health through ratification and accession of international legal regime, incorporating it in the domestic system is yet at an early stage. The protection and promotion of the right entails detailed laws and implementation structures besides constitutional and policy framework.

This essay will analyze the role Government can and should play in ensuring the realization of women’s sexual and reproductive health as part of their overall responsibility toward the promotion and protection of women’s health.

[1] Jonathan M. Mann et al., Health and Human Rights, 1 Health and Human Rts. 6-23 (1994).

[2] Sheila Martin, A Woman Centered Approach to Laws on Human Reproduction, in HUMAN RIGHTS IN THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTRY: A GLOBAL CHALLENGE 905-18 (Kathleen E. Mahoney & Paul Mahoney eds., 1993).

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