UN Rapporteur on Right to Health Meets with SRH Groups at IAC


A meeting of great importance
for civil society took place outside the official venue for the 2008
AIDS Conference — a dialogue with the newly-appointed
UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health, Anand Grover. Ximena Andion,
of the Center for Reproductive Rights, and Juliana Cano, of Human Rights
Watch, organized the informal gathering so that community and NGO representatives
could learn about Grover’s background, hear his views on the linkages
between sexual and reproductive health (SRH) and HIV, and express some
of their concerns regarding sexual and reproductive health and rights violations.

Grover,
co-founder of the Lawyers Collective in India, has made it a point to
work closely with civil society in the legal and rights-based work he
pursues. His career began with a case focused on the rights of homeless
people and since then he has worked with community members in drafting
Indian laws related to HIV and sexual violence. He is currently arguing
a court case against the sodomy law in India.

Grover
stressed that any work on human rights and health must be based on a
combination of the "academic" and "real-life experience." Scientific
evidence is needed to show which public-health interventions will have
a real impact on the risks and vulnerabilities of various groups. At
the same time, people from these communities must have a platform to
share their own views and experiences regarding the factors that they
feel place their health in jeopardy. We already have interventions developed
in such a manner and these need to be promoted; examples include empowerment
strategies among sex workers and needle-exchange programs for injecting
drug users.

As
the Special Rapporteur on Health, one of Grover’s tasks will be to
work on further refining the definition of the right to health as used
in human rights law. In this regard, he will focus on a limited number
of key issues that can be delineated more clearly. Although he was clear
about already having some ideas about which issues he believes will
be worth pursuing, he also wants input from civil society.

In
order to gather as much input as possible in a short period of time,
Grover will work with NGOs to hold a series of regional consultations
for civil society organizations, including groups working on HIV/AIDS,
women’s issues, sexual orientation, human rights and health issues
affecting marginalized groups. He hopes that these dialogues will lead
to a growing consensus on issues requiring urgent attention.

The
civil society representatives at the informal Mexico meeting took the
opportunity to put forward their views on some of the issues that are
of vital importance in their region. These include: addressing the issue
of unsafe abortion and negation of safe legal abortion care by governments
such as Nicaragua; homophobia by conservative and religious groups,
which is obstructing health-related work for non-heterosexual people;
and access of indigenous groups and young people to adequate health
services.

These
topics fit in well with Grover’s expressed desire to address marginalization
and empowerment as perspectives for the work of the Special Rapporteur.
He will be setting up a webpage through which civil society groups can
send him information and feedback in the very near future.

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