1999 General Recommendation No.24 on women and health

UN Com­mit­tee on the Elim­i­na­tion of Dis­crim­i­na­tion Against Women

Analysis of precedential value

The Com­mit­tee on the Elim­i­na­tion of Dis­crim­i­na­tion Against Women (CEDAW) pro­vides an author­i­ta­tive inter­pre­ta­tion of arti­cle 12 of the Con­ven­tion on the Elim­i­na­tion of All Forms of Dis­crim­i­na­tion Against Women.

CEDAW is com­posed of 23 inde­pen­dent experts on women’s rights that mon­i­tor the imple­men­ta­tion of the Covenant. It is part of the Office of the High Com­mis­sioner for Human Rights, a Sec­re­tariat body led by the UN High Com­mis­sioner for Human Rights.

Used as precedent


While bio­log­i­cal dif­fer­ences between women and men may lead to dif­fer­ences in health sta­tus, there are soci­etal fac­tors that are deter­mi­na­tive of the health sta­tus of women and men and can vary among women them­selves. For that rea­son, spe­cial atten­tion should be given to the health needs and rights of women belong­ing to vul­ner­a­ble and dis­ad­van­taged groups, such as migrant women, refugee and inter­nally dis­placed women, the girl child and older women, women in pros­ti­tu­tion, indige­nous women and women with phys­i­cal or men­tal dis­abil­i­ties.

stigma and discrimination

Mea­sures to elim­i­nate dis­crim­i­na­tion against women are con­sid­ered to be inap­pro­pri­ate if a health-care sys­tem lacks ser­vices to pre­vent, detect and treat ill­nesses spe­cific to women. It is dis­crim­i­na­tory for a State party to refuse to pro­vide legally for the per­for­mance of cer­tain repro­duc­tive health ser­vices for women. For instance, if health ser­vice providers refuse to per­form such ser­vices based on con­sci­en­tious objec­tion, mea­sures should be intro­duced to ensure that women are referred to alter­na­tive health providers.

gender norms and stereotypes

For exam­ple, States par­ties should not restrict women’s access to health ser­vices or to the clin­ics that pro­vide those ser­vices on the ground that women do not have the autho­riza­tion of hus­bands, part­ners, par­ents or health author­i­ties, because they are unmar­ried or because they are women. Other bar­ri­ers to women’s access to appro­pri­ate health care include laws that crim­i­nal­ize med­ical pro­ce­dures only needed by women pun­ish women who undergo those pro­ce­dures.

comprehensive sexuality education

States par­ties should ensure, with­out prej­u­dice or dis­crim­i­na­tion, the right to sex­ual health infor­ma­tion, edu­ca­tion and ser­vices for all women and girls, includ­ing those who have been traf­ficked, even if they are not legally res­i­dent in the coun­try. In par­tic­u­lar, States par­ties should ensure the rights of female and male ado­les­cents to sex­ual and repro­duc­tive health edu­ca­tion by prop­erly trained per­son­nel in spe­cially designed pro­grammes that respect their right to pri­vacy and con­fi­den­tial­ity.

gender equality

As a con­se­quence of unequal power rela­tions based on gen­der, women and ado­les­cent girls are often unable to refuse sex or insist on safe and respon­si­ble sex prac­tices. Harm­ful tra­di­tional prac­tices, such as female gen­i­tal muti­la­tion, polygamy, as well as mar­i­tal rape, may also expose girls and women to the risk of con­tract­ing HIV/AIDS and other sex­u­ally trans­mit­ted dis­eases. Women in pros­ti­tu­tion are also par­tic­u­larly vul­ner­a­ble to these dis­eases.

bodily autonomy and integrity

Women have the right to be fully informed, by prop­erly trained per­son­nel, of their options in agree­ing to treat­ment or research, includ­ing likely ben­e­fits and poten­tial adverse effects of pro­posed pro­ce­dures and avail­able alter­na­tives.