Criminalisation, sexual and reproductive rights, public health–and justice.

Reprod Health Matters. 2009 Nov;17(34):4-9. doi: 10.1016/S0968-8080(09)34492-4. FREE

Criminalisation, sexual and reproductive rights, public health–and justice.

Berer M.


The papers in this journal issue are about the law and criminalisation relating to rape and sexual violence, female genital mutilation (FGM), selling and buying sex, provision and use of modern contraception and induced abortion, homosexuality, and HIV transmission and exposure. The papers are highly thought-provoking, especially when read together, not least because the question of whether criminalisation is a good thing or a bad thing must be answered quite, quite differently in relation to each criminalised practice explored. It is easy to argue why modern contraception and induced abortion should be legal because they are necessary to protect women’s lives and health, and that sexual identity is inherent in the person and must be respected by society and protected in law. It is not so easy to determine how justice should be best served, as opposed to exacting retribution or revenge, or how to protect the rights of both perpetrators and victims, when a serious or life-threatening harm has been done, including and even in the absence of criminal intent to harm, as with HIV transmission and exposure….

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