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Access to sexual and reproductive health rights in conflict zones

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Elaine Johnston

Partner, Co-Head Antitrust

New York

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Kate Cavelle
Kate Cavelle

Head of Pro Bono & Comm. Inv.


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03 January 2020

New York partner Elaine Johnston has led a substantial piece of research for the Center for Reproductive Rights – an organisation that uses the law to advance these fundamental human rights around the world.

Partner Elaine Johnston

Conducted by 19 A&O lawyers from across the U.S., UK and Europe, with associate Arpita Ashok and pro bono lawyer Kristin Bong coordinating the team, the research supports a new area of work for the Center, focusing on access to sexual and reproductive health rights in conflict zones – in particular whether effective legal mechanisms exist to enforce those rights.

A&O’s report covered 14 countries across Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Latin America and found that, while international and domestic legal mechanisms do exist to promote sexual and reproductive health rights, this accountability on paper is often at odds with the prevalence of violations on the ground and the experiences of the victims.

As Siri May, Senior Global Advocacy Advisor at the Center for Reproductive Rights, explains: “Nowhere is the need for sexual and reproductive health services more acute than in conflict settings, where rates of sexual and gender-based violence increase exponentially. As well as being serious human rights violations in their own right, women and girls can go on to suffer long-term consequences, such as high rates of unsafe abortion, miscarriage, premature labour and sexually transmitted infections – all against a backdrop of disintegrating health systems, unsafe environments and fear of further violence for seeking care.”

“The Center for Reproductive Rights is doing incredibly important work in this area,” says Elaine. “We hope our report will help them to advocate for more effective protections and accountability mechanisms, and to engage with government officials, other decision makers and NGOs in affected regions in pursuit of these goals.

“This research builds on work we’ve done with Amref Health Africa to help advocate for better sexual and reproductive health rights in sub-Saharan Africa,” Elaine says, “as well as more recently with Legal Action Worldwide to launch a landmark case against the Government of South Sudan for sexual violence against women.”

Read more about this work in Issue 4 of Increasing Access – download it here. 

This article is taken from the new edition of our pro bono and community investment magazine, Increasing Access.

Download the full magazine below

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