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Priority Actions in the Zika Virus Response

February 2016

In this paper, Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) lays out what an appropriate response to the spread of the Zika virus must include in order to be compliant with human rights obligations.

The emergence of the Zika virus, with its suspected risk of causing microcephaly in infants, is highlighting how public health policies related to sexual and reproductive rights are being hijacked by politicians who ignore well-established public health principles and human rights norms.

Even as scientists race to understand the link between the Zika virus and microcephaly, some governments are calling on women at risk to delay pregnancy. But these calls are laughable in countries where women are denied access to the information and means to make informed decisions about their reproductive choices – as a matter of government policy. Too often, governments adopt policies that limit access to contraception and disempower women and girls. And these violations of women’s sexual and reproductive rights are exacerbated by the failure of governments to address sexual and gender-based violence – a scourge which also strips women and girls of control over their sexual and reproductive choices.

The crisis sparked by the Zika virus has created an opportunity to review and reform governmental policies that undermine women’s sexual and reproductive rights and their and their children’s right to heath. Read PHR’s full paper here.

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