Human Rights Speaker Series: Reproductive rights, Reproductive Autonomy and Self-Determination

  • Wed 9 Mar 22

    14:00 - 15:30

  • Online


  • Event speaker


  • Event type

    Lectures, talks and seminars
    Human Rights Centre Speaker Series

  • Event organiser

    Human Rights Centre

  • Contact details

    Law and HRC Events and Communications Team

Please join us for the latest Human Rights Speaker Series, hosted by the University of Essex Human Rights Centre and the Essex Armed Conflict and Crisis Hub.

HRC Speaker Series: Reproductive rights, Reproductive Autonomy and Self-Determination

Marking International Women’s Day, our webinar on 9 March 2022 brings together globally leading experts on women’s rights and sexual and reproductive health who will debate human rights standards that need to be developed and implemented to protect women’s autonomy and self-determination. With a focus on contemporary challenges to sexual and reproductive health and rights, and on intersectional approaches, our panellists will present on:

- the discriminatory dimensions of abortion law;

- freedom and autonomy during pregnancy and childbirth;

- challenges that the call for disability justice poses to feminist movements;

- Gender-based violence, precarity and migrant women.

Discriminatory Dimensions of Abortion Law:

In this presentation Professor Rebecca J. Cook argues that discrimination against pregnant individuals seeking access to safe abortion is structural. It takes place at multiple institutional sites. Some sites are formal such as the constitution, legislation, regulations, policy, codified administrative and professional practices and the courts, and other sites are informal such as uncodified administrative practices. To illustrate this point, she uses the 2014 decision of the Zimbabwe Supreme Court in Mildred Mapingure v. Minister of Home Affairs, Minister of Health, Minister of Justice Legal and Parliamentary Affairs rewritten by Charles Ngwena and herself for their chapter in my forthcoming edited volume, Frontiers of Gender Equality (UPenn Press, 2023). She explains how were wrote the decision to accord pregnant individuals seeking safe abortion formal, substantive and transformative equality.

Freedom and autonomy during pregnancy and childbirth:

When we think about lack of autonomy and freedom in reproduction, we often think about abortion issues. However, a huge gap in the exercise of our autonomy and self-determination is experienced by pregnant people, whom are often stripped of agency, are mistreated and are treated as incubators whose rights are put on hold. In this presentation Alejandra Cardenas argues that human rights standards need to be developed and pushed to respond to the human rights violations experienced by women during pregnancy and childbirth, and how critical it is to articulate these standards with strong protections for access to healthcare. 

Challenges that the call for disability justice poses to feminist movements

Women and LGBTQI people with disabilities are at the margins of feminist, LGBTQI and disability movements. The differential in political power within and across movements as well as the push for a conservative agenda make it difficult to have meaningful and critical conversations about the tensions that exists between the struggle for the full materialization of sexual and reproductive rights and the struggle for disability justice. In this talk, Andrea Parra will highlight some of these tensions and some of the ways in which they're being addressed, particularly in Latin America.


Rebecca J. Cook, J.D., J.S.D., is Professor Emerita in the Faculty of Law and Co-Director, International Reproductive and Sexual Health Law Program, University of Toronto. She serves on the editorial advisory board of the Human Rights Quarterly and is the ethical and legal issues co-editor of the International Journal of Gynecology and Obstetrics. She co-edited Abortion Law in Transnational Perspective: Cases and Controversies (UPenn Press, 2014) and her edited volume, Frontiers of Gender Equality, is forthcoming in 2023 with UPenn Press.Alejandra Cardenas is the Senior Director of Global Legal Strategies at the Center for Reproductive Rights, a unit responsible for ensuring technical excellence, legal coherency and thought leadership across the organization. Before joining the Center, Alejandra served as Regional Legal Director for Women’s Link Worldwide, where she was responsible for the planning and oversight of program design and implementation while overseeing a team working on reproductive rights, transitional justice and sex trafficking. Prior to that, Alejandra served as a Human Rights Specialist at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in Washington, D.C., where she oversaw the caseload of petitions filed against Bolivia and Peru and served as the Commission’s liaison with those two States. Alejandra has published several articles on reproductive rights, the Inter-American human rights system, and international public law. Alejandra received her LLM from Harvard Law School with a concentration in International Public Law, and her undergraduate law degree from the Universidad Externado de Colombia.

Andrea Parra is an attorney, feminist legal activist, experiential trainer and translator. She holds a law degree from the Universidad de los Andes in Bogotá, Colombia and an LLM in American Law from Boston University. She is admitted to practice in the state of New York and in Colombia. She’s an independent consultant, a core trainer with Training for Change, co-coordinator of the Latin American Network on Art.12 and co-director of the ALCE project., which seeks to combat psychiatric violence. As a consultant, she has worked with various human rights agencies and organizations including OHCHR, the Belém do Pará Monitoring Mechanism, Bridges, O’Neill Institute, Promsex, the Colombian Movement for Sexual and Reproductive Rights, among others. Until 2018 she was the Advocacy Director of the India-based feminist organization CREA. Between 2016 and 2017 she was the interim Practitioner-in-Residence and clinical professor of the Immigrant Justice Clinic of the Washington College of Law at American University. Between 2011 and 2016, she was the Director of the Action Program for Equality and Social Inclusion (PAIIS), a human rights law clinic at the Universidad de los Andes that engages in legal and political advocacy against discrimination based on disability, gender identity and sexual orientation. She was an adjunct professor at the same law school between 2009 and 2014. Prior to joining PAIIS, she worked as a senior staff attorney at Women’s Link Worldwide, where she directed the Gender Justice Observatory and worked on projects related to migrant women and implementation of international human rights standards in sexual and reproductive rights advocacy. Between 2001 and 2006 she worked as staff attorney and supervisor of the domestic violence unit at the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project in Seattle, U.S. Since 2014, she has been a training associate with Training for Change an organization that has developed an experiential methodology of training that helps groups stand up more effectively for justice, peace and the environment. She has trained in several countries and in various cities of Colombia and the U.S. She is also a translator and interpreter on social justice issues including the book Gender Stereotyping, Transnational Legal Perspectives by Professors Rebecca Cook and Simone Cusack, Building a Movement to End the New Jim Crow: An Organizing Guide by Daniel Hunter, and Plan Colombia: U.S. Ally Atrocities and Community Activism by John Lindsay-Poland. She is a board member of organizations Sinergias Alianzas Estratégicas, ILEX Acción Jurídica, and a member of the of the Alliance for Legal Capacity in Colombia. 

Professor Anuj Kapilashrami is an Interdisciplinary social scientist trained in Sociology and Public health and Professor in Global health Policy and Equity & Director of Global Public Health programme in the School of Health & Social Care at University of Essex. Her work lies at the intersections of health politics and development praxis, with particular interest in understanding their interface with equity, human rights and social justice. Her current research examines migration as a structural determinant of health, where she adopts an intersectionality lens to reveal how intersecting gender and other social inequalities (race/ ethnicity, indigeneity, sexuality) shape experiences of health, gender violence, and access to health and social protection.

How to register

Wednesday 09 March 2:00-3:30pm GMT

Please register for this webinar ;Zoom.

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