A Review of the Concept and Structure of Sexual and Reproductive Rights in International Human Rights Documents

Document Type : Review Article


1 Ph.D. Student of Reproductive Health, Student Research Committee, School of Nursing and Midwifery, Mashhad University of Medical Sciences, Mashhad, Iran.

2 Associate Professor, Department of Midwifery, Evidence Based Research Center, School of Nursing and Midwifery, Mashhad University of Medical Sciences, Mashhad, Iran.

3 Assistant Professor, Department of Biostatistics and Epidemiology, Health Sciences Research Center, School of Nursing and Midwifery, Mashhad University of Medical Sciences, Mashhad, Iran.

4 Associate Professor, Department of Medical Ethics and Law, Medical Ethics and Law Research Center, School of Medicine, Shahid Beheshti University of Medical Sciences, Tehran, Iran.


Introduction: Reproductive ill-health related to the violation of sexual and reproductive rights has accounted for a significant part of the global disease burden in women and men of reproductive ages. The novelty of concept, its large domain and the current challenges in realization of sexual and reproductive rights led to carrying out this review in order to look at its history, concept, and the most important structure to enhance health care providers' awareness on this concept.
Methods: This review was carried out in the period of 1946–2013 by searching in PubMed, Google Scholar, as well as websites of various international relevant organizations using key words including "reproductive rights", "sexual rights", "reproductive health", "sexual health", and "human rights". Articles, reports, and official publications of World Health Organization, United Nations, International Planned Parenthood Federation, United Nations Fund for Population Activities, Center for Reproductive Rights, Guttmacher Institute, and Ibis international nonprofit organization (totally, 11 deceleration and conventions, and 4 cultural documents) were reviewed. Also the findings of Quran's content analysis were included in this study.
Results: The concept of sexual and reproductive rights implies that all people are able to regulate their fertility and enjoy a mutually satisfying and safe relationship free from discrimination, coercion, and violence. The structure of sexual and reproductive rights include the right to choose whether or not to marry and to plan a family, the right to decide whether and when to have children, the right to sexual decision making free from discrimination and violence, and the right to information and education.
Conclusion: Sexual and reproductive rights with two main pillars including the right of decision making related to reproductive and sexual health free from discrimination, coercion, and violence and the right of access to information and effective education guarantees sexual and reproductive health of all persons. Complexities in the international concept of sexual and reproductive rights have raised the need to adapt it with socio-cultural context of Iranian society.


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