Article Text

Download PDFPDF
A proposed new international convention supporting the rights of pregnant women and girls and their newborn infants
  1. Benjamin Winrow1,
  2. Khalif Bile2,
  3. Assad Hafeez3,
  4. Hugh Davies4,
  5. Nick Brown5,
  6. Shamsa Zafar6,
  7. Mamady Cham7,
  8. Barbara Phillips1,
  9. Rhona MacDonald1,
  10. David P Southall1
  1. 1Maternal and Childhealth Advocacy International, Nottingham, UK
  2. 2Recently retired Country Representative for WHO, WHO Pakistan, Stockholm, Sweden
  3. 3Health Services Academy, Islamabad, Pakistan
  4. 4Jurisprudence, The University of Oxford, Oxford, UK
  5. 5Department of Paediatrics, Salisbury District Hospital, Salisbury, UK
  6. 6Department of Obstetrics, RIPHAH International University, Rawalpindi, Pakistan
  7. 7Department of Health Services, Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, Banjul, The Gambia
  1. Correspondence to Professor David P Southall, Maternal and Childhealth Advocacy International-MCAI, 83 Derby Rd, Nottingham NG15BB, UK; director{at} and davids{at}


For a multitude of eminently modifiable reasons, death rates for pregnant women and girls and their newborn infants in poorly resourced countries remain unacceptably high. The concomitant high morbidity rates compound the situation. The rights of these vulnerable individuals are incompletely protected by existing United Nations human rights conventions, which many countries have failed to implement. The authors propose a novel approach grounded on both human rights and robust evidence-based clinical guidelines to create a ‘human rights convention specifically for pregnant women and girls and their newborn infants’. The approach targets the ‘right to health’ of these large, vulnerable and neglected populations. The proposed convention is designed so that it can be monitored, audited and evaluated objectively. It should also foster a sense of national ownership and accountability as it is designed to be relevant to local situations and to be incorporated into local clinical governance systems. It may be of particular value to those countries that are not yet on target to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), especially MDGs 4 and 5, which target child and maternal mortality, respectively. To foster a sense of international responsibility, two additional initiatives are integral to its philosophy: the promotion of twinning between well and poorly resourced regions and a raising of awareness of how some well-resourced countries can damage the health of mothers and babies, for example, through the recruitment of health workers trained by national governments and taken from the public health system.

Statistics from

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.


  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.