Integrating Human Rights and Women’s Health – An Overview

Women's rights

A universal educational framework that integrates human rights and
quality healthcare and establishes standards for professionalism that save lives.

Saving the lives of women and enhancing their well- being is less a function of technology and sophisticated medical skills than of changes in the way that women are offered access to, and benefit from, high standards of care.

In 2009, Professors Diane Magrane and Lesley Regan accepted the leadership of FIGO’s Women’s Sexual and Reproductive Rights (WSRR) Committee. The Committee had been charged with the design, development and implementation of a curriculum in women’s reproductive rights.

Committee members considered the daunting challenges of designing an educational process that could be accepted into the myriad curricular requirements and course work of medical schools around the world. They realized that to design an approach that would be universally welcomed by educators, the project must include teaching and learning tools that:

  1. Can be adapted to local health and educational needs;
  2. Are useful, easily available and accessible;
  3. Can be easily delivered and understood with minimal training.

This website opens the project to global dissemination and adaptation. Our international team is committed to collaborating with professional societies and medical schools around the world, in order to shift the teaching of Human Rights and Women’s Healthcare to a mainstream position in the medical school curriculum.

Figo memebers meeting

The committee at work, London, 2013

The framework for the FIGO Human Rights/Women’s Health Project is based upon the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights. In essence, the approach seeks to have clinicians and professional health educators consider how human rights and healthcare outcomes are related in our own health, in the care of our patients and in the care of all citizens of our communities and states.

The committee's work is based upon ten fundamental human rights that contribute to optional healthcare.

Healthcare Rights

  • Life

  • Confidentiality

  • Right to decide on number and
    spacing of children

  • Health

  • Autonomy in decision making

  • Freedom from inhumane and
    degrading treatment

  • Privacy

  • Benefit from scientific progress

  • Information

  • Non-discrimination

Integrated Competencies for Medical Practice

Standards for performance are described in terms of ten professional competency and learning objectives that align with the United Nations Declaration of Universal Human Rights. They were compiled by an international team of women’s health educators and women’s rights attorneys and have been approved and endorsed by the FIGO Executive Committee. The competencies are currently described for graduating medical students; however, the materials and the approach could easily be adapted for use in training a wide variety of individuals in the healthcare and legal professions. They may be downloaded from the page entitled Integrated Competencies for Medical Practice

A Checklist for Quality Care

The formal competencies are translated into a tool for use in guiding clinical case discussions. This Checklist for Quality Care may be downloaded from the page entitled A Checklist for Quality Care

Five Key Questions

Five key discussion questions:

  1. What are the medical problems and health issues in this case?
  2. What threats to human rights are posed by the scenario?
  3. How does this healthcare system support or infringe upon human rights?
  4. What local practices and regulations affect the practitioners’ ability to deliver human rights-based patient care?
  5. How could this healthcare encounter be improved to respect human rights and ensure quality healthcare?

Five key questions guide discussion of quality women’s healthcare. This set of questions are designed to be applied to a variety of teaching settings. They can be used in preparation for clinical experiences in new settings, for analysis of outcomes in clinical settings, and to guide learning from simulation and case studies. The questions probe medical knowledge and understanding of healthcare systems, both of which are essential to understanding healthcare outcomes in light of protection of human rights.

Case Studies

Ten case studies taken from examples around the world demonstrate the fundamental links between respect for human rights and healthcare outcomes. Teaching of these integrates the Key Questions and the Checklist for Quality Care; associated clinical, legal and ethics references, and Facilitator Guides create a 'toolbox' for instructors. The cases are designed to address a range of scenarios in which protection or breech of rights affected clinical outcomes of women patients. We hope that teachers will wish to expand the discussion to other cases within and beyond women’s health.

FIGO HRWH Case Studies: Topics


  • Sexual assault, emergency contraception and STD prophylaxis
  • Pelvic cancer and lack of information about postoperative therapy
  • Incomplete abortion and hemorrhage in a remote healthcare setting
  • Pain relief for outpatient pregnancy termination
  • Clinical consultation and privacy
  • Lack of prenatal care resulting from restricted access
  • An adolescent with an unwanted pregnancy
  • Denial of sterilization
  • Contraceptive counseling and cancer screening
  • Confidentiality of HIV screening results