Hastings International and Comparative Law Review


Cheryl Hanna


This Paper was initially presented at the Hastings International & Comparative Law Review symposium Heath as a Human Right: The Global Option. The symposium was held in memory of Professor Virginia Leary, a leader in international law. Professor Hanna takes this theme and applies it to global problem of violence against women and girls and makes two assertions. First, while there has been tremendous progress in our understanding of how male violence against women and girls undermines gender equality and impacts their right to autonomy and full citizenship, the most fundamental and basic consequence of such violence - physical and mental injury - is often overlooked. Second, while few would question that states have an affirmative duty to implement policies geared at ending male violence against females, many would question whether such policies should include mandated interventions that are contrary to a woman's choice to preference her privacy over her health or safety. Advocates for abused women have been debating where the line between the right to health and the right to family autonomy and privacy ought to be drawn for nearly two decades, just as health advocates have struggled with the question of when mandatory public health interventions should yield to privacy concerns.

To rethink this conflict, the author examines Opuz v. Turkey, recently decided by the European Court of Human Rights, which articulates a clear and simple standard to guide state actors in deciding whether mandatory interventions into specific relationships promote or compromise human rights. Opuz shows the Court's willingness to err on the side of ensuring physical and mental integrity rather than the more conceptually amorphous concept of privacy. She urges policy makers in the United States and beyond to use Opuz as a guide in meeting their affirmative duties to end gendered violence.