Equal reproduction rights? The right to found a family in United Nations’ disability policy since the 1970s


Publication Date 

11 pp

With the adoption of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) in 2006, disability as an issue of human rights and international law can no longer be ignored. The history of this convention can be traced back to the 1970s, when disability was framed in United Nations (UN) declarations as a human-rights issue at the global level. One of the recurrent topics of debate during this trajectory was the right of people with dis- abilities to found a family. This right was far from self-evident and was evaluated very differently by various stakeholders.

This study follows the right to have a family in UN disability policy since the 1970s. The history of the family in relation to disability at the global level has been a neglected field of enquiry compared to other concepts such as gender and race. This study investigates how and why the right to found a family was framed in the Declarations on the Rights of Mentally Disabled Persons (1971) and Disabled Persons (1975), the International Year of Disabled Persons (1981), the International Decade of Disabled Persons (1983 − 1992), the Standard Rules on the Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities (1993) and the UNCRPD in 2006.

The trajectory of the right of people with disabilities to found a family that emerges from these cases shows a change in the 1990s from a social-policy to a human-rights approach towards disability – which reflects a broader trend in global and local histories of human rights. In the case of reproductive rights of people with disabilities this change meant that the emphasis was laid more on providing a legal protection for the individual against the interference of others (so-called negative freedom) than on enhancing the opportunities for disabled people to practice their (positive) freedom.

Regional Focus 



Type of material 

Content type