Integrating Reproductive Rights into the
Treaty Monitoring Process

Box 2


To hold governments legally accountable for neglecting or violating reproductive rights, the understandings reached at the Vienna, Cairo and Beijing international conferences have to be fully integrated into the human rights treaty monitoring process (see Chapter 1). This was one of the goals of a December 1996 meeting on reproductive and sexual health and rights, involving representatives of the six treaty bodies, the United Nations system and NGOs. It was the first time such a group had met on a thematic issue.

The Roundtable on Human Rights Treaty Bodies' Approaches to Women's Health, held in Glen Cove, New York, was organized by UNFPA in collaboration with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights/UN Centre for Human Rights and the UN Division for the Advancement of Women. Participants examined the interpretation of human rights treaties, and explored the need for new procedures and indicators to promote and monitor reproductive and sexual health-related rights.

Among the meeting's recommendations was a call for the treaty bodies, UN agencies and NGOs to work together to integrate a gender-sensitive human rights perspective in their respective programmes. Treaty bodies were urged to incorporate reproductive and sexual rights in their guidelines for examining states' reports, and to use the Vienna, Cairo and Beijing decisions, where applicable, in preparing guidelines, general comments, recommendations, and responses to reports. Treaty body chairpersons were asked to consider reproductive rights as a thematic issue at their annual meeting.

United Nations agencies were asked to train their staff in the human rights dimensions of their policies and programmes, and to support similar training of NGO and governmental staff; to provide information to assist the treaty bodies in monitoring progress in rights implementation; to work with states to implement the treaty bodies' comments on their reports; and to assist the treaty bodies in elaborating states' minimum obligations under the treaties with respect to women's empowerment and reproductive and sexual rights.

NGOs were urged to support the reporting process by identifying meaningful indicators and information sources, providing independent information and helping coordinate local inputs, and to continue advocacy for human rights implementation at all levels.