Report Special Rapporteur on adolescents’ right to health

June 25, 2016

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In his latest report to the UN Human Rights Council, the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health, Dainius Puras, focuses on the right to health of adolescents. He calls upon States to remove all legal barriers to access health facilities, goods and services that interfere with the rights of adolescents to be heard and to be taken seriously.

After his presentation to the Council he said: “Governments must strike a balance between adolescents’ emerging autonomy and their right to protection, in particular when it comes to mental health, the rights to sexual and reproductive health, and substance use and drug control, given the specific challenges these issues pose.”

Mental health

The report emphasizes that healthcare services should ensure respect for adolescents’ rights to privacy and confidentiality, address their different cultural needs and expectations, and comply with ethical standards. “This is particularly important when it comes to providing mental health services for adolescents,” he said. “Psychosocial interventions should be provided at the community level in a manner that is ethical and consistent with adolescents’ rights, and on the basis of available evidence, with a view to avoid institutionalization and the excessive use of psychotropic medications.”

Sexual and reproductive health

The report also argues that States should adopt or integrate a comprehensive sexual and reproductive health policy for all adolescents into national strategies and programmes to ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health-care services. Recommendations in this regard include: 

  • Abortion should not be criminalized, as this only leads to higher number of maternal deaths, and poor mental and physical health outcomes.
  • All adolescents should have access to confidential, adolescent-responsive and non-discriminatory sexual and reproductive health information, services and goods.
  • Age-appropriate, comprehensive and inclusive sexuality education, based on scientific evidence and human rights, should be part of the school curriculum.

Drug control

The Special Rapporteur also calls on States to seek alternatives to punitive or repressive drug control policies, including decriminalization and legal regulation and control, and foster the international debate on these issues with the right to health at the core. “All drug detention centres for adolescents should be closed, and the provision of prevention, harm reduction and dependence treatment services, without discrimination, should be ensured,” he said.

Violence and neglect

Furthermore, adolescents should be protected from violence and neglect, including in family settings, by the upholding of their right to confidential services and counselling without parental consent. He also called on States to support families to increase the abilities of parents to raise children and adolescents in a competent and confident manner, and reinforce skills to manage situations in a non-violent way. 

Source: News article Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, 15 June 2016

Access the report (available in English, French, Spanish, Arabic, Chinese and Russian)