CEDAW and Treaty Compliance: Promoting Access to Modern Contraception

By Sochacki, Katherine | Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law, March 2018 | Go to article overview

CEDAW and Treaty Compliance: Promoting Access to Modern Contraception


Sochacki, Katherine, Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law


       TABLE OF CONTENTS I.     INTRODUCTION                                   660 II.    MODERN CONTRACEPTION                           662        AS A REPRODUCTIVE RIGHT          A. Health and Economic Benefits              662             of Modern Contraceptives          B. Family Planning in International          664             Treaties          C. Continuing Unmet Need and Regional        668             Disparities in the Access to             Contraception III.   THE COMMITTEE ON THE ELIMINATION OF ALL        671        FORMS OF DISCRIMINATION AGAINST WOMEN          A. CEDAW Enforcement Mechanisms              671          B. Domestic Politics Theory of Treaty        673             Compliance          C. CEDAW's Influence on Domestic             677             Abortion Laws IV.    PROMOTING DOMESTIC ENFORCEMENT OF TREATY       679        OBLIGATIONS TO INCREASE ACCESS TO MODERN        CONTRACEPTION          A. CEDAW's Approach to Modern                679             Contraception          B. Sierra Leone                              685                                                       687 V.     CONCLUSION                                     689 

I. INTRODUCTION

A mother of nine children, Zainabu was fully aware of the dangers of pregnancy and childbirth. (1) Sierra Leone, Zainabu's home country, has the highest maternal mortality rate in the world. (2) When a nonprofit provider of sexual and reproductive health care services visited her village, Zainabu decided to learn about the availability of family planning options. (3) After discussing condoms, the pill, and long-acting or permanent methods, she decided to undergo a tubal ligation, which is a twenty-five minute operation performed under local anesthetic. (4) "By stopping having children, we'll be able to give all our attention to the ones we have," Zainabu stated in explanation of her decision to seek contraception. (5)

As Zainabu's story demonstrates, access to modern contraceptive methods enables a woman to control the number and timing of her children. With this control comes health and economic benefits for the woman, her family, and her country. (6) Modern contraception is relatively inexpensive, and its power to benefit and transform the lives of the poorest and most vulnerable women is tremendous. The ability to delay or prevent pregnancies is truly lifesaving--approximately 800 women die each day from causes related to pregnancy or childbirth. (7) Access to contraception is especially important in areas of conflict, such as the refugee crisis of the war in Syria, and in regions plagued by infectious diseases, such as Zika. (8)

While women's rights advocates, health professionals, and economists recognize the importance of access to contraception, unmet need for modern contraceptives remains high in certain parts of the world, especially in developing regions. (9) This Note argues that international treaty monitoring bodies have not fully exercised their monitoring powers to ensure and encourage member states' compliance with treaty obligations regarding access to contraception. In particular, this Note contends that one treaty monitoring body, the Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), can and should do more to pressure its member states to increase access to contraception and reduce unmet need, in part by providing local advocacy groups with the information needed to create change in the member states' domestic policies.

In Part II, this Note explains the importance of access to modern contraceptive methods as a fundamental reproductive right and discusses the continuing unmet need for and regional disparities in the access to contraception. Part III then examines the role of CEDAW and its powers as a treaty monitoring body, analyzing the particular situations and circumstances in which CEDAW is most effective at ensuring member states' compliance with treaty obligations. …

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