Table 6: Minority Health and the Right to
Bodily Integrity

Examples of Human Rights Violations

  • Ethnic minority children are disproportionately targeted by police officers and subjected to ill-treatment and abuse.• Ethnic minority women are coercively sterilized without their fully informed consent.
  • Ethnic minority women and children are frequent victims of domestic violence due to extreme living conditions such as land dispossession, community isolation, high unemployment, poverty, and alcohol abuse.
  • Due to discriminatory attitudes, police are especially reluctant to interfere when ethnic minority women are victims of domestic violence.

Note: The right to bodily integrity is not specifically recognized under the ICCPR, ICESCR, or European conventions, but has been interpreted to be part of the right to security of the person (ICCPR 9, ECHR 5), the right to freedom from torture and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment (ICCPR 7, ECHR 3), and the right to the highest attainable standard of health (ICESCR 12, ESC 11). The CESCR remarked that a “major goal” under the right to health should be “protecting women from domestic violence.” [CESCR GC 14, para. 21]. Although CEDAW does not specifically address bodily integrity, the CEDAW Committee indicated that the “definition of discrimination includes gender-based violence.” CEDAW Committee, General Rec. 19, paras 6-7.

Human Rights Standards Treaty Body Interpretation
ICERD 5: State Parties undertake to prohibit and eliminate racial discrimination in all its forms and to guarantee the right of everyone, without distinction as to race, colour, or national or ethnic origin, to equality before the law, notably in the enjoyment of . . .
(b) [t]he right to security of person and protection by the State against violence or bodily harm, whether inflicted by government officials or by any individual group or institution.
CERD: Recommending that Slovakia “establish clear guidelines concerning the requirement of ‘informed consent’ and to ensure that these guidelines are well-known among practitioners and the public, in particular Roma women [and] that all reports of sterilization without informed consent be duly acknowledged and that victims be provided with adequate remedies, including apologies, compensation and restoration, if possible.” CERD/C/SVK/CO/6-8 (CERD, 2010) This problem also noted by the HRC CCPR/C/SVK/CO/3 (HRC, 2011) and Committee Against Torture CAT/C/SVK/CO/2 (CAT, 2009).

CERD: Remarking on police brutality against the Roma in the Ukraine, including arbitrary arrests and illegal detention. A/56/18(SUPP) (CERD, 2001), para. 373.

CERD: Noting that Roma members, especially the young, in Albania are subjected to ill-treatment and improper use of force by police officers. CERD/C/63/CO/1 (CERD, 2003), para. 18.

Although CEDAW does not specifically address bodily integrity, the CEDAW Committee indicated that the “definition of discrimination includes gender-based violence.” [CEDAW Committee, General Rec. 19, paras 6-7]. CEDAW Committee: recommending that China “investigate and prosecute reports of abuse and violence against ethnic minority women by local family planning officials, including forced sterilization and forced abortion.” CEDAW/C/CHN/CO/6 (CEDAW, 2006).

CEDAW Committee: noting the continuing gender-based discrimination and violence that Roma women face in their own communities in Sweden. A/56/38(SUPP) (CEDAW, 2000), para. 356.

CEDAW Committee: calling upon the Czech Republic to provide redress to Roma women victimized by coercive sterilization and to prevent further involuntary sterilizations. CEDAW/C/CZE/CO/3 (CEDAW, 2006), para. 24.

CRC 19(1): States Parties shall take all appropriate legislative, administrative, social and educational measures to protect the child from all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation, including sexual abuse, while in the care of parent(s), legal guardian(s) or any other person who has the care of the child. CRC Committee: Recommending that the Syrian Arab Republic “address the issue of temporary marriages, including by raising awareness among children, families and within the community of the negative impact of such marriages on the physical and mental health and general well-being of girls, and ensure that legal proceedings are engaged against those who organize those marriages.” CRC/C/SYR/CO/3-4 (CRC, 2012).

CRC Committee: Observing continued allegations of ill-treatment and torture by the police of Roma children in the Ukraine and urging investigation. CRC/C/15/ADD.191 (CRC, 2002), para. 36.

FCNM 6(1): The parties undertake to take appropriate measure to protect persons who may be subject to threats or acts of discrimination, hostility or violence as a result of their ethnic, cultural, linguistic or religious identity. AC: Pointing to cases of abusive behavior, hostile attitudes, and violence by police against Roma members in Romania. ACFC/OP/II(2005)007, November 2005.
The right to bodily integrity is not specifically recognized under the ICCPR, but has been interpreted to be part of the right to security of the person in ICCPR 9, and the right to freedom from torture and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment in ICCPR 7. HRC: Concluding that “Roma and other women have been subjected to sterilization without their consent” and recommending that the Czech Republic “ensure fully informed consent in all proposed cases of sterilization and take the necessary measures to prevent involuntary or coercive sterilization in the future, including written consent forms printed in the Roma language, and explanation of the nature of the proposed medical procedure by a person competent in the patient’s language” CCPR/C/CZE/CO/2 (HRC, 2007).
Human Rights Standards Case Law
ECHR 8(1): Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence.

ECHR 8(2): There shall be no interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right except such as is in accordance with the law and is necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security, public safety or the economic well-being of the country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.

ECtHR: “The applicant [a Roma patient] complained that her right to respect for her private and family life had been violated as a result of her sterilisation without her full and informed consent.” The Court found that there was a violation of Art. 8. Case of V.C. v. Slovakia, 18968/07 (November 8, 2011).

ECtHR: NB was sterilized while undergoing a caesarean section at a public hospital. However, NB was only 17 years old at the time of the intervention, so she was also legally a minor. The hospital, in addition to having NB sign the consent form after the administration of tranquilizing premedication, never obtained the consent of her legal guardians. NB did not learn of her sterilization until several months after the fact because it was not noted in her release report from the hospital. The Court unanimously held that NB had been sterilized without informed consent and in contravention of Articles 8 and 13. N.B. v. Slovakia, 29518/10 (June 12, 2012).