Sexual and Reproductive Rights at the United Nations: Frustration or Fulfillment?

Posted: 15 Dec 2011

See all articles by Alice M. Miller

Alice M. Miller

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Mindy Jane Roseman

Harvard Law School

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: November 1, 2011


Over the past 20 years, advocates have gained formal recognition for some rights in sexuality and reproduction and established the application of human rights standards to sexual and reproductive health issues more generally. However, careful reflection on the state of norm development across sexuality and reproduction as a field reveals fractures and stagnation in the development of standards, and a lack of synergy among advocates and between frameworks for similar rights. This paper seeks to stimulate a more careful accounting for these realities. It examines the formal processes and rules guiding standard-setting, in light of the different intellectual and ideological genealogies of sexual and reproductive rights. We use (homo)sexual orientation and abortion as case studies of current high-profile human rights standard-setting, with specific attention to the contemporary state of human rights law-making in the United Nations today. By placing these two issues in conjunction, we seek to make visible relationships between the vicious political debates in the UN on abortion and sexual orientation, and the multiple and sometimes divergent statements of independent experts and expert bodies in the UN human rights system on these and other sexual and reproductive rights issues. We offer no answers but seek to highlight the need for more investigation and self-reflection by advocates and scholars on how these forces operate and how to work with them.

Keywords: human righjts, sexual rights, reproductive rights, United Nations

Suggested Citation

Miller, Alice M. and Roseman, Mindy J ., Sexual and Reproductive Rights at the United Nations: Frustration or Fulfillment? (November 1, 2011). Reproductive Health Matters, Vol. 19, No. 38, pp. 102-118, November 2011, Available at SSRN:

Alice M. Miller (Contact Author)

affiliation not provided to SSRN ( email )

Mindy J . Roseman

Harvard Law School ( email )

Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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