Zika virus infection in Brazil and human rights obligations

Many thanks to the authors of this useful new article in the Ethical and Legal Issues section of the International Journal of Gynecology and Obstetrics.  Debora Diniz and Sinara Gumieri are affiliated with the Anis Institute of Bioethics, Human Rights and Gender, Beatriz Galli is Senior Policy Advisor at Ipas Brazil, and Rebecca Cook and Bernard Dickens are professors emeriti at the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Law.

 The February 2016, the WHO declaration that congenital Zika virus syndrome constitutes a Public Health Emergency of International Concern reacted to the outbreak of the syndrome in Brazil. Public health emergencies can justify a spectrum of human rights responses, but in Brazil, the emergency exposed prevailing inequities in the national healthcare system. The government’s urging to contain the syndrome, which is associated with microcephaly among newborns, is confounded by lack of reproductive health services. Women with low incomes in particular have little access to such health services. The emergency also illuminates the harm of restrictive abortion legislation, and the potential violation of human rights regarding women’s health and under the UN Conventions on the Rights of the Child and on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Suggestions have been proposed by which the government can remedy the widespread healthcare inequities among the national population that are instructive for other countries where congenital Zika virus syndrome is prevalent.

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Typescript online.

Related Resources:
“The Zika Virus and Brazilian Women’s Right to Choose,” op/ed by Debora Diniz, February 8, 2016.  New York Times.
“Zika: More than a health issue (Dec 1, 2016)  53-minute  TV interview with English subtitles.
“Zika” documentary  30 minutes, April 2016, with English subtitles;
“Zika emergency pushes women to challenge Brazilian abortion law”  Guardian news report.
Zika: Do Sertão nordestino à ameaça global  by  Debora Diniz  (Rio de Janeiro:  Civilização Brasileira, 2016).  Portuguese: Book or e-bookSinopseA história contada.
[Zika: from Brazilian backlands to global threat] Forthcoming in English from Zed Books in September 2017, this book analyses scientific discoveries regarding Zika in Brazil as well as the impact of the epidemic on poor black and brown women’s lives.

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Compiled by the Coordinator of the International Reproductive and Sexual Health Law Program, reprohealth*law at utoronto.ca.   For Program publications and resources, see our website, online here.     TO JOIN THIS BLOG: enter your email address in upper right corner of this webpage, then check your email to confirm the subscription.

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