are special rights pertaining to pregnant and lactating women articulated
in international documents (see above). The issue of termination of
pregnancy, however, is highly controversial. In most countries, national
laws and policies regulate the termination of pregnancies. Where the
matter is regulated, due regard must be paid to the laws and policies
of the host country. In many countries where abortion is normally highly
restricted, it is nonetheless permitted under certain conditions when
a pregnancy results from rape, incest, or threatens the life of the
violence against refugees is a global problem and constitutes a violation
of human rights as enshrined in international declarations and treaties:
right to life, liberty and security of person
right to freedom from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment
right to freedom from all forms of physical or mental violence
Geneva Conventions and their Protocols, which are among the foundations
of international humanitarian law, also apply to refugees, returnees
and internally displaced persons in times of armed conflict. These laws
offer protection to all civilians, particularly women and children,
against various forms of sexual violence, including mutilation, forced
prostitution, sexual abuse and rape.
human rights laws applicable in Europe, the Americas and Africa similarly
protect the rights to personal dignity and integrity and prohibit degrading
treatment or punishment and violence against women.
laws also usually protect against sexual violence. The government on
whose territory the sexual attack occurred is responsible for taking
diligent remedial measures, including conducting a thorough investigation
into the crime, identifying and prosecuting those responsible, and protecting
victims from reprisals.
to UNHCR Guidelines on Preventing and Responding to Sexual Violence
against Refugees, specifically Chapter 4, "Legal Aspects of Sexual Violence".
These guidelines provide a clear and comprehensive analysis of the legal
framework governing the prevention of sexual violence in the refugee
Cairo Programme of Action of the 1994
United Nations International Conference on Population and Development
not legally binding, the Cairo ICPD Programme of Action is an important
step in recognising reproductive rights internationally. It represents
the political consensus of 184 nations.
Programme provides for individuals to decide freely and responsibly
the number, spacing and timing of their children and to have the information
and means to do so. It also includes the right of all to make decisions
concerning reproduction free of discrimination, coercion and violence.
it expresses the right of men and women 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.
The Beijing Platform for Action of the
1995 World Conference on Women
not legally binding, it nonetheless represents international consensus
in endorsing many of the commitments made in the ICPD Programme of Action
and specifies action to be taken by States, international bodies, donors,
non-governmental organisations and others.
J. "Human Rights and Reproductive Self-Determination", 44 AM U. L. Rev.,
on Refugee Women" and "Guidelines on Refugee Children", UNHCR, Geneva.
Reproductive Rights: A Global Mandate", Center for Reproductive Health
Law and Policy (CRLP), New York.
Awareness Training Programme", UNHCR, Geneva, 1997.
Violence against Refugees: Guidelines on Prevention and Response", UNHCR,
of the World: Laws and Policies Affecting Their Reproductive Lives:
Anglophone Africa", CRLP and International Federation of Women Lawyers
(Kenya Chapter), New York, 1997.