Women’s Rights and Reproductive Rights: A Complicated History

Lunch Briefing

Women’s Rights and Reproductive Rights: A Complicated History Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies Almost all international organisations working in the field of population and reproduction today stress the fundamental importance of empowering women, working for gender equality, and adopting a human rights-based approach. But this was not always the case: in fact, this woman/rights-centred paradigm is a relatively novel phenomenon when placed in the longer history of population activism. This public briefing will explore the complex mix of feminist, eugenic, neo-Malthusian, environmentalist, and public health ideologies that shaped early- to mid-20th century “population control” and “family planning” activism, before tracing the forces from within and outside the population movement that fuelled the shift to a “reproductive rights” paradigm in the early 1990s. Finally, it will consider how the historical legacy of population control continues to shape international politics and activism today. With Nicole Bourbonnais, Assistant Professor of International History.


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