I.V. v. Bolivia decision: Forced sterilization is based on harmful gender stereotypes

March 29, 2017

Many thanks to Christina Zampas, a Reproductive and Sexual Health Law Fellow at the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Law, for summarizing this decision of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.  She also presented oral expert testimony in this case during its hearing on 2 May 2016 in San Jose, Costa Rica, focusing on international and regional human rights standards in relation to informed consent to sterilization, and on gender discrimination and stereotyping. (Overview of her testimony.)

Caso I.V. v. Bolivia,   Sentencia de 30  Noviembre de 2016 (Excepciones Preliminares, Fondo, Reparaciones y Costas) Corte InterAmericana de Derechos Humanos  Decision in Spanish.

I.V. v Bolivia concerns the involuntary sterilization in 2000 of an immigrant woman from Peru in a public hospital in Bolivia during a caesarean section.   In its first case alleging forced sterilization and indeed, its first case on informed consent to a medical procedure, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights struck at the heart of such practices by addressing underlying causes of such violations: gender discrimination and stereotyping.

The Court held that the State violated the woman’s rights to personal integrity, personal freedom, private and family life, access to information and rights to found a family, and to be free from cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment contrary to the dignity of a human being, all contained in the American Convention on Human Rights.  The State had also violated its duties to condemn all forms of violence against women under the Convention of Belem do Pará.   In finding these violations, the Court recognized that sterilization without consent annulled the right to freely make decisions regarding one’s body and reproductive capacity, resulting in loss of control over one’s most personal and intimate decisions, with lasting implications.

While generally agreeing with decisions about forced sterilization of Roma women issued by the European Court of Human Rights and the CEDAW Committee , the Inter-American Court’s decision is groundbreaking in that it uniquely highlighted the transcendent role of state obligations to respect and guarantee the right to non-discrimination in the context of women’s human rights violations. Thus, the Court recognized that the freedom and autonomy of women in sexual and reproductive health, generally, has historically been limited or annulled on the basis of negative and harmful gender stereotypes in which women have been socially and culturally viewed as having a predominantly reproductive function, and men viewed as decision-makers over women’s bodies. The Court recognized that non-consensual sterilization reflects this historically unequal relationship. The Court noted how the process of informed decision-making operated under the harmful stereotype that I.V., as a woman, was unable to make such decisions responsibly, leading to “an unjustified paternalistic medical intervention” restricting her autonomy and freedom.  The Court thus found a violation of the right to non-discrimination based on being a woman. It also stressed the particular vulnerability to forced sterilization facing certain women, based on other characteristics such as socioeconomic status, race, disability, or living with HIV.

The Court ordered both individual reparations and general measures, including ensuring education and training programs for healthcare and social security professionals regarding informed consent, gender-based violence, discrimination and stereotyping.  The Court’s unequivocal articulation of the right of women to make decisions concerning reproductive health, without being subjected to discrimination based on stereotypes or power relations, is important in this first case by an international or regional tribunal addressing this in the context of sterilization.  It could also apply to other reproductive health care contexts, such as the case for abortion.

Links for this case:
Caso I.V. v. Bolivia,   Sentencia de 30  Noviembre de 2016 (Excepciones Preliminares, Fondo, Reparaciones y Costas) Corte InterAmericana de Derechos Humanos  Decision in Spanish
Report on the Merits (2014) in English.
Amicus Curiae brief by Ciara O’Connell, Diana Guarnizo-Peralta and Cesar Rodriguez-Garavito:  in English.

Related decisions, alluded to above:
V.C. v. Slovakia, European Court of Human Rights (Decision 8 November 2011)
N.B. v. Slovakia,  European Court of Human Rights (Decision 12 June 2012)
VC and NB decisions, summarized by Andy Sprung
I.G. and others v. Slovakia  European Court of Human Rights (Decision 13 November 2012).
IG decision, summarized by Andy Sprung

UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW)
A.S. v. Hungary  (Decision online).
Summary  and documents from CRR.
Analysis by Simone Cusack, OP CEDAW blog.
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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.


REPROHEALTHLAW Updates – Nov. 2016

November 24, 2016

SUBSCRIBE TO REPROHEALTHLAW: To receive these updates monthly by email, enter your address in upper right corner of this webpage, then check your email to confirm the subscription.

DEVELOPMENTS

Gender Justice Uncovered Awards – internationally elected, from cases abstracted by Women’s Link Worldwide:   Best and Worst Judgments of the year.

India: High Court on its own Motion v.  The State of Maharashtra, Suo Motu Public Interest Litigation No. 1 of 2016,  Civil Appellate Jurisdiction, High Court of Judicature at Bombay,  India, September 19, 2016. [Prison inmate granted abortion on compassionate grounds.]  Judgment online.

Spain: Tribunal Constitucional, Sentencia S.T.C. 145/2015, 25 de junio de 2015, 2015182 BOE 66654.  [Seville pharmacy had been fined €3,000 in 2008 for refusing to sell emergency contraceptive, but Spanish constitutional court overturns decision on appeal.]  Spanish judgment now online, including dissenting opinions.  Published decisionEnglish newspaper report. Summary by Women’s Link Worldwide

Tanzania: decision against child marriage:  Rebeca Z. Gyumi v The Attorney General, Miscellaneous Civil Cause No. 5 of 2016, Date of Judgment: 8/7/2016,  [Tanzanian age of marriage laws are found discriminatory and unconstitutional]   Decision online Comment by Girls Not Brides.org

CALLS FOR PAPERS:

“Disability and Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights”  Reproductive Health Matters 25.49, (June 2017). Submit paper by  (extended) deadline Dec. 10, 2016.   Detailed call for papers.

Disability: “The notion of maternal immunity in tort for pre-natal harms causing permanent disability for the born alive child”  Human Rights Controversies,  Special Issue of The International Journal of Human Rights.  Submit paper by February 1, 2017.  Detailed call for papers

“Equality rights, human rights or social justice…”  Journal of Law and Equality (peer-reviewed, student-run) is currently accepting submissions for its Spring 2017 publication.  It publishes research articles, case comments, notes, and book reviews by a diverse group of commentators including professors, practitioners, and students.  Submit papers to  JLE  at gmail. com

RESOURCES

[abortion] “Mandatory Waiting Periods and Biased Counseling Requirements in Central and Eastern Europe: Restricting Access to Abortion, Undermining Human Rights, and Reinforcing Harmful Gender Stereotypes.” Center for Reproductive Rights.  Fact Sheet online.

[abortion law, Chile]   Debates y reflexiones en torno a la despenalización del aborto en Chile, Lidia Casas Becerra y Delfina Lawson  (LOM, 2016).  Libro en línea, 325 paginasIndice en Espanol.

[abortion law, Latin America, constitutions]  Paola Bergallo and Agustina Ramón Michel, “Constitutional Developments in Latin American Abortion Law,”  International Journal of Gynecology and Obstetrics 135 (2016) 228–231.   PDF online here

[abortion, rape and child marriage  in Sri Lanka]  Submission    to    the    Committee    against    Torture    re  the Sri    Lanka’s Fifth    State    Party    Report, October    2016 by the OMCT (World Organization Against Torture) and Global Justice Center, focuses on how Sri Lankan law violates the Convention Against Torture by banning abortion in most circumstances, and by authorizing rape in certain instances and child marriage.
Press Release     Shadow Report

[conscientious objection, Canada] “Let Thy Conscience Be Thy Guide (But Not My Guide!): Physicians and the Duty to Refer” (October 12, 2016) Daphne Gilbert, McGill Journal of Law and Health 2016 10(2).  Abstract and Article.

[fetal abnormality testing] “Ethical and Legal Aspects of Noninvasive Prenatal Genetic Diagnosis,” by Bernard M. Dickens,  International Journal of Gynecology and Obstetrics 124.2 (2014): 181-184. Abstract and Article.

[personhood and assisted reproduction, Argentina]   “The Lingua Franca of Reproductive Rights: The American Convention on Human Rights and the Emergence of Human Legal Personhood in the New Civil and Commerce Code of Argentina,” by Martin Hevia and Carlos Herrera Vacaflor, 23 U. Miami Int’l & Comp. L. Rev. 687 -740. Article online.

US-focused news, resources, and legal developments are available on Repro Rights Prof Blog.  View or subscribe.

JOBS

Links to other employers in the field of Reproductive and Sexual Health Law are online here

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TO JOIN THIS BLOG: enter your email address in upper right corner of this webpage, then check your email to confirm the subscription.   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


Decision, Calls, Conferences, Resources & Jobs

January 16, 2014

REPROHEALTHLAW BLOG
January 16, 2014

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DECISION:

Canada:  Supreme Court Strikes Down Canada’s Prostitution Laws, unanimous decision.  Canada (Attorney General) v. Bedford, 2013 SCC 72, Case #34788.  Struck down:  “over-broad” and “grossly disproportionate” laws prohibiting brothels, living on the avails of prostitution and communicating in public with clients.  Parliament has one year (if it wishes) to pass new law as Criminal Code provisions remain in place
Supreme Court decision of Dec. 20, 2013 is online here.
Printable PDF version of 83-page decision is online here.
Legal analysis by Ranjan K. Agarwal, Intervenor
News coverage, key points and context by CBC

CALLS

“Population, Environment and Sustainable Development,” call for papers for Reproductive Health Matters journal, May 2014 – still accepting submissions.  RHM Call for papers online here.

“Using the Law and the Courts,” call for papers for Reproductive Health Matters journal Nov 2014.   RHM Call for papers-scroll down.

Call for Papers,  “Abortion: The Unfinished Revolution.”  Conference: August 7-8,  2014 at the University of Prince Edward Island, Charlottetown, PEI, Canada, submit abstract by Jan 31, 2014.
PEI call for papers online here.

CONFERENCES

“Task sharing in unwanted pregnancy” FIAPAC bi-annual conference for abortion and contraception professionals,” October 3-4,  2014, Ljubljana, Slovenia   Online poster with list of topics.

FIGO World Congress 2015, Vancouver, BC,  Canada,  Oct 4-9, 2015 [sic].  12-page brochure online here.

RESOURCES:

Abortion Law in Transnational Perspective:  Cases and Controversies, ed. Rebecca J. Cook, Joanna N. Erdman and Bernard M. Dickens, 16 chapters.  Forthcoming, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2014.  To receive details when it is published, email reprohealth. law\at/ utoronto. ca with subject “abortion book flyer”.

[abortion, Australia] ‘A Woman’s Right to Choose: Human Rights and Abortion in Australia’ in Paula Gerber and Melissa Castan (eds), Contemporary Human Rights Issues in Australia (Thomson Reuters, 2013) 251-273.   Book description.

[abortion, CEDAW] “A Commentary on L.C. v Peru: The CEDAW Committee’s First Decision on Abortion,” by Charles G. Ngwena,  Journal of African Law 57(2): 310-324.   Abstract and link online here.

[abortion stigma] New abortion stigma network:  INROADS, the International Network for the Reduction of Abortion Discrimination and Stigma –   To learn more, contact:  info\AT/endabortionstigma.org.
New abortion stigma website online here.

[abortion, surrogacy, ova donation] “Reproductive Technologies and Reproductive Justice,” theme of special issue guest-edited by Mytheli Sreenivas in Frontiers: A Journal of Women’s Studies  34.3, 2013 [includes articles re abortion law advocacy in Taiwan, U.S.A. and elsewhere]
Repro Technologies issue online here.

[CEDAW effectiveness]   “International Women’s Convention, Democracy, and Gender Equality” by Seo-Young Cho, forthcoming Social Science Quarterly  Abstract and article online.

Conscientious Objection to the provision of reproductive healthcare – special issue, International Journal of Gynaecology and Obstetrics, vol 123, Supp. 3 (Dec. 2013), Conscientious Objection issue, online here, includes:.

— Editorial by Wendy Chavkin, Global Doctors for Choice

–Conscientious objection and refusal to provide reproductive healthcare: A White Paper examining prevalence, health consequences, and policy responses, by Wendy Chavkin, Liddy Leitman, Kate Polin.

— Conscientious objection or fear of social stigma and unawareness of ethical obligations, by Anibal Faúndes, Graciana Alves Duarte, Maria José Duarte Osis.

— Conscientious objection to provision of legal abortion care, by Brooke R. Johnson, Eszter Kismödi, Monica V. Dragoman, Marleen Temmerman.

— Legal and ethical standards for protecting women’s human rights and the practice of conscientious objection in reproductive healthcare settings   by Christina Zampas.
All are in Conscientious Objection issue, online here.

[Conscientious objection]  A list of our Program publications on Conscientious Objection, with links where available, is online here.

[Course syllabi] Reproductive and Sexual Health Law Course syllabus for a course taught by Rebecca Cook and Joanna Erdman, based on the textbook Reproductive Health and Human Rights: Integrating Medicine, Ethics and Law (Oxford University Press, 2003) is licensed for free adaptation by law instructors anywhere in the world.   This RSH Law course syllabus will remain online until August 2014. See also:  Women’s Rights in Transnational Law 2013 course syllabus by Rebecca Cook.  More teaching resources are online here.

[human rights]  The American Convention on Human Rights:  Crucial Rights and their Theory and Practice by Cecilia Medina (Mortsel, Belgium: Intersentia, 2013).  Book description online.

[LGBTQ] World map shows countries where consensual same-sex sexual conduct is criminalized  UNAIDS Info Graphic online.

Reproductive Freedom, Torture and International Human Rights: Challenging the Masculinisation of Torture, by Ronli Sifris.  (Oxford: Routledge, 2014) Book description.

US-focused news, resources, and legal developments are available on Repro Rights Prof Blog.  View or subscribe here.

JOBS

Program Officer, Safe Abortion and Advocacy, Latin America and the Caribbean, International Planned Parenthood Federation, Western Hemisphere.  Job requires Master’s degree or equivalent in Social Sciences, Law, Political Science, Public Health. IPPF job details here.

Program Associate for Latin America and the Caribbean,  Center for Reproductive Rights.  Apply by Jan. 24, 2014.   CRR job details here.

Other jobs at the Center for Reproductive Rights
Internship at the Nepal office, apply by Jan. 17, 2014
Manager of Policy and Advocacy Research, apply by Jan. 17.
Senior Attorney for Judicial Strategy, apply by Jan. 31.
List and links are online here.

Links to other employers in the field of Reproductive and Sexual Health Law are online here.

The REPROHEALTHLAW Blog is compiled monthly by the Coordinator of the International Reproductive and Sexual Health Law Program, University of Toronto, Canada.  Email:  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 account to confirm the subscription.