Table 8: Children’s Health and the Right to Sexual and Reproductive Health and Education, Including on HIV

Table 8: Children’s Health and the Right to Sexual and Reproductive Health and Education, Including on HIV

Examples of Human Rights Violations

  • Insufficient efforts to provide adolescents to appropriate reproductive health services, including reproductive health education in school.
  • High rates of unplanned pregnancies among adolescents and the correspondingly high rates of abortion among adolescents in such situations.
  • High rates of sexually transmitted diseases including HIV, due in part to the lack of awareness of prevention methods and low use of contraceptives.
  • Limited efforts to combat traditional beliefs that intercourse with a virgin cures HIV infection, which increases the vulnerability of women and, especially, young girls to infection.
Human Rights Standards Treaty Body Interpretation
CRC 24(1): States Parties recognize the right of the child to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health and to facilities for the treatment of illness and rehabilitation of health. States Parties shall strive to ensure that no child is deprived of his or her right of access to such health care services.(2): States Parties shall pursue full implementation of this right and, in particular, shall take appropriate measures: (f) To develop preventive health care, guidance for parents and family planning education and services. CRC General Comment 3: Consistent with the obligations of States parties in relation to the rights to health and information, children should have the right to access adequate information related to HIV/AIDS prevention and care, through formal channels (e.g. through educational opportunities and child-targeted media) as well as informal channels (e.g. those targeting street children, institutionalized children or children living in difficult circumstances). States parties are reminded that children require relevant, appropriate and timely information which recognizes the differences in levels of understanding among them, is tailored appropriately to age level and capacity and enables them to deal positively and responsibly with their sexuality in order to protect themselves from HIV infection. CRC/GC/2003/3.

CRC Committee: Expressing concern at the high rates of teenage pregnancies and recommending increased efforts for adolescent reproductive health services in the United Kingdom CRC/C/GBR/CO/4 (CRC, 2008), paras. 60, 61; Serbia CRC/C/SRB/CO/1 (CRC, 2008), paras. 54, 55; Korea CRC/C/KOR/CO/3-4 (CRC, 2012), para. 58; Madagascar CRC/C/MDG/CO/3-4 (CRC, 2012), paras. 51, 52.

CRC Committee: Recommending increased information and education on adolescent reproductive health in Bhutan CRC/C/SR.1369 (CRC, 2008), para. 55; Bulgaria CRC/C/BGR/CO/2 (CRC, 2008), para. 58; Costa Rica CRC/C/CRI/CO/4 (CRC, 2011), para. 6; Syria CRC/C/SYR/CO/3-4 (CRC, 2012), para. 65.CRC Committee: Noting with significant concern that the majority of married girls aged 15 – 17 in Egypt never used family planning methods. CRC/C/EGY/CO/3-4 (CRC, 2011), para. 64.

CRC Committee: Recommending strengthened preventive efforts on HIV/AIDS through awareness, education and increased programs in Bhutan CRC/C/SR.1369 (CRC, 2008), para. 59; Panama CRC/C/PAN/CO/3-4 (CRC, 2011), para. 59; Syria CRC/C/SYR/CO/3-4 (CRC, 2012), para. 65.

CRC Committee: Noting with concern that in Burkina Faso, only 10% of HIV infected children receive medical care because of the lack of available health structures to care for them and the reluctance of families to have their children tested. CRC/C/BFA/CO/3-4 (CRC, 2010), para. 60.


Human Rights Standards Treaty Body Interpretation
CEDAW 10: States Parties shall take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women in order to ensure to them equal rights with men in the field of education and in particular to ensure, on a basis of equality of men and women: (h) Access to specific educational information to help to ensure the health and well-being of families, including information and advice on family planning CEDAW General Recommendation 24(18): The issues of HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted disease are central to the rights of women and adolescent girls to sexual health. Adolescent girls and women in many countries lack adequate access to information and services necessary to ensure sexual health. (20th Session, 1999).

CEDAW Committee: Recommending that sex education be widely promoted and targeted at adolescent girls and boys, with special attention to the prevention of early pregnancy and the control of sexually transmitted infections in Egypt CEDAW/C/EGY/CO/7 (CEDAW, 2010); Uzbekistan CEDAW/C/UZB/CO/4 (CEDAW, 2010); Lao People’s Democratic Republic CEDAW/C/LAO/CO/7 (CEDAW, 2007); and United Republic of Tanzania CEDAW/C/TZA/CO/6 (CEDAW, 2009).CEDAW Committee: Expressing concern about the high rate of teenage pregnancy in Paraguay and Uganda, which affects the continuation and completion of education for girls. CEDAW/C/PRY/CO/6 (CEDAW, 2011)CEDAW/C/UGA/CO/7 (CEDAW, 2010).

CEDAW Committee: Noting that additional efforts are needed to raise awareness, especially among youth, about the risks and effects of HIV, AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections Zambia. CEDAW/C/ZMB/CO/5-6 (CEDAW, 2011).

CEDAW Committee: Recommending that Ethiopia provide free antiretroviral treatment for pregnant women living with HIV/AIDS to prevent mother-to-child transmission; and conduct awareness-raising activities to de stigmatize orphans and vulnerable children affected by HIV/AIDS and strengthen the material and psychological support provided to them. CEDAW/C/ETH/CO/6-7 (CEDAW, 2011).

ICESCR 12(1): The States Parties to the present Covenant recognize the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health. CESCR: Noting with concern that in Kazakhstan, sexual and reproductive health services, particularly for teenagers, are not available and there is a lack of comprehensive sexual and reproductive health education programs for adolescents in the national school curricula that provide them with objective information in accordance with medical and education standards. E/C.12/KAZ/CO/1 (2010).

CESCR: Recommending that Bolivia openly address the subjects of sex education and family planning in school curricula in order to help prevent early pregnancies and the spread of sexually-transmitted diseases. E/C.12/BOL/CO/2 (CESCR, 2008)

Human Rights Standards Case Law
ESC 11: With a view to ensuring the effective exercise of the right to protection of health, the Contracting Parties undertake, either directly or in co-operation with public or private organisations, to take appropriate measures designed inter alia: (2) to provide advisory and educational facilities for the promotion of health and the encouragement of individual responsibility in matters of health. ECSR: Finding a violation of Article 11(2) in light of the non-discrimination clause where sexual education materials in Croatia was scientifically inaccurate, gender stereotyped or outright discriminatory on grounds of sexuality and/or family status; stating that in the positive obligation to provide sexual and reproductive health extends to ensuring that educational materials do not reinforce demeaning stereotypes and perpetuate forms of prejudice which contribute to the social exclusion, embedded discrimination and denial of human dignity often experienced by historically marginalized groups such as persons of non-heterosexual orientation.The reproduction of such state-sanctioned material in educational materials not alone has a discriminatory and demeaning impact upon persons of non-heterosexual orientation throughout Croatian society, but also presents a distorted picture of human sexuality to the children exposed to this material. By permitting sexual and reproductive heath education to become a tool for reinforcing demeaning stereotypes, the authorities have failed to discharge their positive obligation not to discriminate in the provision of such education, and have also failed to take steps to ensure the provision of objective and non-exclusionary health education. International Centre for the Legal Protection of Human Rights (INTERIGHTS) v. Croatia, Complaint No. 45/2007, 30 March 2009.

Other Interpretations 

SR Health: Recommending that the Syrian Arab Republic develop and implement a consistent, nation-wide sexual and reproductive health education curricula, to be delivered through late primary and early secondary schools. A/HRC/17/25/Add.3 (2011).

International Guidelines on HIV/AIDS and Human Rights 8 (g) States should ensure the access of children and adolescents to adequate health information and education … [and] (h) … confidential sexual and reproductive health services, including HIV information, counseling, testing, and prevention measures.