Global survey of national constitutions : mapping constitutional commitments to sexual and reproductive health and rights

Authors & affiliation

LucĂ­a Berro Pizzarossa, Katrina Perehudoff


General Comment No. 22, issued in 2016 by the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR), clarifies states' legal duties to respect, protect, and fulfill the right to sexual and reproductive health (SRH). Our study analyzes domestic constitutions around the world to investigate whether and to what extent the right to sexual and reproductive health is respected, protected, and fulfilled; to what extent these provisions are inclusive and non-discriminatory; and to what degree the interlinkages between this and other human rights are acknowledged. Of the 195 constitutions accessed, 27 enshrine sexual and/or reproductive health, and seven adopt restrictive approaches to this right. In the 27 constitutions, provisions most frequently enshrine respect of one's sexual health and family planning decisions, the protection of sexual health, and the provision of reproductive health care and family planning services (fulfillment). Most of the 27 constitutions fail to adequately respect reproductive health rights; to protect reproductive health, family planning, and abortion services from third-party interference; and to fulfill all dimensions of sexual health and access to abortion. Three of the 27 constitutions enshrine a universal right to SRH, and additional constitutions protect specific vulnerable groups (such as women, children) and/or restrict the scope of rights holders to couples. Among the 27 constitutions, nine explicitly link the right to sexual and reproductive health to the rights to education, science, and/or to make autonomous decisions about sexuality and reproduction. Our results can serve as a baseline measure to track constitutional reforms in pursuit of the realization of sexual and reproductive health and rights, and as building blocks for future lawmakers committed to realizing these rights through domestic legal reform.

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