mention ‘[p]roviding reparations and assistance to victims and restoring
essential services’ only as their final point ( UN Secretary-General, 2016 : 10, Recommendation 13).
It also overlooks the fact that incident accounts have value in themselves for those
providing them. Currently, contributors’ accounts can be excluded for failing
to meet the (externally imposed) threshold, even though it is concern for the lives
of these same healthcare workers and the broader
‘Case history’ on violence against women, and against women’s rights to
health and to reproductive health
Sara De Vido
state laws and policies.
The bi-dimensional relationship will be explored using the jurisprudence of
regional human rights courts and the activity of international human rights bodies,
along with some relevant national judgments and state practice. I will study the
decisions following three axes, which correspond to specific questions:
1. Who are the applicants?
2. Has the right to health been applied directly? In which ways was women’s
health relevant in the decision?
3. What reparations, if any, have been granted to the person(s) whose rights have
The book explores the relationship between violence against women on one hand,
and the rights to health and reproductive health on the other. It argues that
violation of the right to health is a consequence of violence, and that (state)
health policies might be a cause of – or create the conditions for – violence
against women. It significantly contributes to feminist and international human
rights legal scholarship by conceptualising a new ground-breaking idea, violence
against women’s health (VAWH), using the Hippocratic paradigm as the backbone of
the analysis. The two dimensions of violence at the core of the book – the
horizontal, ‘interpersonal’ dimension and the vertical ‘state policies’
dimension – are investigated through around 70 decisions of domestic, regional
and international judicial or quasi-judicial bodies (the anamnesis). The concept
of VAWH, drawn from the anamnesis, enriches the traditional concept of violence
against women with a human rights-based approach to autonomy and a reflection on
the pervasiveness of patterns of discrimination (diagnosis). VAWH as theorised
in the book allows the reconceptualisation of states’ obligations in an
innovative way, by identifying for both dimensions obligations of result, due
diligence obligations, and obligations to progressively take steps (treatment).
The book eventually asks whether it is not international law itself that is the
ultimate cause of VAWH (prognosis).
Reconceptualising states’ obligations in countering VAWH
Sara De Vido
DE VIDO 9781526124975 PRINT.indd 184
use the means they have to adequately investigate abuses committed to determine
who was responsible, to take appropriate steps against such individuals, and to
guarantee victim redress and reparations.’46 As clearly outlined by the African
Commission on human and people rights in the case Zimbabwe Human Rights
NGO Forum v. Zimbabwe:
[an] act by a private individual and therefore not directly imputable to a State can
generate responsibility of the State, not because of the act itself, but
of VAW as an international custom, confirming
the proposal of the CEDAW Committee in GR No. 35 of 2017.
Women’s rights to health and to reproductive health have underpinned the
assessment: even though often not applied directly, these rights have played a role
in determining the consequences of violence (horizontal dimension), the causes
of violence (vertical dimension), state responsibility, how to decide reparations
and the general measures states must adopt. This way, the content of the right to
health and of the right to reproductive health has been clarified
A conceptualisation of violence against women’s health (VAWH)
Sara De Vido
conduct. I also pointed out the importance of intersectionality in the analysis of
‘patterns of discrimination,’ which will prove to be helpful in theorising states’
obligations, and in reflecting on reparations. Compared to the notion of VAW, I
added to the notion of VAWH the element of consent, which expresses and gives
strength to women’s autonomy. VAWH is a limitation of women’s autonomy
and alters their consent.
Challenges to the public/private divide
My concept allows us to reflect on the ‘public/private divide’ developed, and
challenged soon after its
DE VIDO 9781526124975 PRINT.indd 13
Violence against women’s health in international law
Structure of the book
The first chapter contains the anamnesis and is based on the analysis of selected
jurisprudence of regional human rights and domestic courts, and of the quasi-jurisprudence of UN treaty bodies, related to both dimensions, focusing on
the applicants, the direct or indirect application of the rights to health and reproductive health, the relevance of women’s health in the analysis and reparations.
The second chapter, the diagnosis
Since the early 1990s, armed actors have invaded territories in the Chocó and Antioquia
departments of Colombia, inhabited by Afro-Colombians and Indians whose collective rights
in these territories had recently been legally recognised. Based on long-term fieldwork
among the Emberá Katío, this article examines social, cosmological and ritual alterations
and re-organisation around violent death. Following a national policy of post-conflict
reparations, public exhumations and identifications of human remains reveal new local
modes of understanding and administration. In particular, suicide, hitherto completely
unknown to the Emberá, broke out in a multitude of cases, mostly among the youth. Local
discourse attributes this phenomenon to the number of stray corpses resulting from the
violence, who are transformed into murderous spirits which shamans can no longer control.
The analysis focusses on the unprecedented articulation of a renewed eschatology, the
intricate effects of an internal political reorganisation and the simultaneous inroad into
their space of new forms of armed insurrectional violence. Thus the article will shed
light on the emergence of a new transitional moral economy of death among the Emberá.