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Women’s Global Health and Human Rights

Women’s Global Health and Human Rights begins with a dedication “to the memory of the disappeared, of the survivors, of all the women who have suffered just by reason of their gender, and of all women who have fought for the integrity of their and every person’s health and human rights” (Murthy and Lanford smith, 2010). This text is dedicated to respectfully address many of the challenges faced by women and girls who have been denied their basic human rights as articulated in the 1948 United Nations Declaration on Human Rights (UDHR) and elaborated on in subsequent human rights conventions. Drs. Murthy and Lanford Smith bring together experts from the fields of public health, sexual health, maternal health, and reproductive health to speak to sensitive issues such as family planning, harmful practices against girls, gender-based violence as a weapon of terrorism and war, human trafficking, medical ethics, neglect of “positive rights” in the reproductive rights discourse, the AIDS pandemic, and cultural practices such as female genital mutilation.

The text is divided into six sections that address problems and suggest solutions to women’s global health issues. From an educator’s perspective, the organization of the sections and chapters makes each topic all the more accessible to students, rights activists, and policy makers. Each section begins with a quote by a prominent human rights activist. For example, section IV: health Problems and Challenges specific to women, Including Chronic diseases and Their Global Burden begins with a quote from Eleanor Roosevelt: “When will our consciences grow so tender that we will act to prevent human misery rather than avenge it?” (128). Most of the chapters are organized as follows: a brief overview of an issue; a discussion of the legal frameworks; a reference to related Millennium Development Goals (MDGs); references to benchmark decisions at the International Conference on Population and development (ICPD) 1994 and/or the 1995 Beijing Women’s Conference; a list of best practices; and recommendations for legislative or policy reform. Most chapters end with discussion questions, such as that posed by Ambassador Anwarul Chowdhury, former U.N. under secretary general: “why is women’s engagement vital to promote the culture of peace?” (498).

Although some chapters cover women’s health issues from an economic, political, legal, and developmental stance, the majority of the text is exclusively written from a health researcher’s or practitioner’s perspective. In future editions, it would be beneficial to include chapters on legal and political analysis of health issues as well as social and cultural critiques of health policies. It would also be important to elaborate on the work of the world health organization (who) and other organizations that have sought to highlight the effect of neglected tropical diseases on women living in Sub-Saharan Africa. In addition, a chapter on the Inter-American Commission on women’s work on the punishment and eradication of violence against women (Convention of ‘Belem do Para’, 1994) would enhance the text.

—Jerusa Ali, Political Science Department, Marist College, Poughkeepsie, N.Y.

 

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