Equal rights?

It is my aspiration that health will finally be seen not as a blessing to be wished for, but as a human right to be fought for.

Kofi Annan, former United Nations Secretary General

Perinatal mental health as a social justice issue

The Right to Health is enshrined in international and national human rights instruments such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948. The right to health was again recognised as a human right in the 1966 International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Since then, other international human rights treaties have recognised or referred to the right to health or to elements of it, such as the right to medical care.

Women's rights

The issue of perinatal mental health is a women's rights issue given that it affects, at least in the first instance, women disproportionately to men, and that despite research into this issue dating back to the work of Louis Victor Marcé in 1858, treatment and knowledge continues to remain unacceptably diverse depending on georgraphical area.

The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women is clear in requiring States parties 'to ensure women have appropriate services in connection with pregnancy, childbirth and the post-natal period... The requirement for States to ensure safe motherhood and reduce maternal mortality and morbidity is implicit here' (World Health Organisation).

A need to end discrimination: ethnicity and class

The Confidential Enquiry into Maternal and Child Health (CEMACH): Why Mothers Die (2004), outlines increased risk factors for women from some minority ethnic groups, as well as for economically disadvantaged women.For further information, please click here.


The States Parties to the present Covenant recognize the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health.

International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, art. 12

Sadly, mental health problems are [a] leading cause of maternal mortality. Most of these deaths are preventable with prompt, effective and supportive care and treatment.

Janet Flaherty, East London NHS Foundation Trust

Non-discrimination and equality are fundamental human rights principles and critical components of the right to health.

World Health Organization

A country's difficult financial situation does NOT absolve it from having to take action to realise the right to health... no State can justify a failure to respect its obligations because of a lack of resources. States must guarantee the right to health to the maximum of their available resources, even if these are tight.

World Health Organization


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