The research by Livia Schmidt, currently studying on the International Law LLM course, and Manvir Greval, who is studying for a PhD degree also in the Westminster Law School, looked at different aspects of reproductive rights and bodily integrity in different constitutions, including the UK, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Iran and Indonesia.
Given that reproductive rights and some forms of bodily integrity provisions are necessarily gender differentiated, the researchers explored the issues which arose in the context of gender equality, and found that a lack of adequate constitutional protection for reproductive autonomy creates a gender disparity within a country.
Focus was not on equal treatment by the substantive law but rather whether the law allows for equal outcomes through protection of rights which, if not protected for women, may otherwise lead to increased inequality between men and women.
It made use of the UN Women constitutional database, drawing upon the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women’s (CEDAW) affirmation of the health and reproductive rights of women and its acknowledgement that culture and tradition are mediators of women’s equality in many contexts.
Speaking about the students’ participation in the Symposium and the research they undertook, Lucy Floyd, Senior Lecturer in Law, said: “The Symposium in April 2017 was a valuable opportunity for Livia and Manvir to establish links with students from other universities worldwide. Preparing for publication of their research report on the UN Women website has enabled them and their research teams to develop their work further. We are now planning to build on this success by development and publication of academic journal articles, which will draw on the results of the research.”
The University of Westminster was invited to take part in the United Nations Women Symposium by an alumna who now works at UN Women and was a valuable opportunity for the students to create connections with peers from universities worldwide, which were also consolidated by the establishment of an online network.