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Center for Public Health and Human Rights

Women's Health Rights

Family planning education in Guatemala

Featured Project

Addressing Gender-based Violence among Female Sex Workers

Our team uses community-collaborative partnerships to characterize violence against female sex workers, health impact and barriers to accessing justice, and inform prevention and response efforts.

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Program Director: Michele Decker

The program on Women’s Health and Rights strategically draws on faculty expertise across Departments of Johns Hopkins School of Public Health as well as Johns Hopkins School of Nursing. Our team brings extensive applied and research experience in the ways in which women’s lives, rights, and structural and policy environments intersect to create – or undermine- health. We engage students across all levels of training in this work, and collaborate with leaders in program, advocacy and policy at all levels.

Women’s health and rights are inextricably linked. Policies and practices that restrict gender equity hamper women’s engagement in education, employment and civic sectors. Social norms perpetuate violence, early marriage, and other domains of gender inequity. Criminal and administrative laws too often fail to provide protection, as in the case of restrictions on women’s property inheritance rights, and the 127 nations worldwide that fail to criminalize rape within marriage. Even where legal protection exists, practices are highly influential, for example the intensity with which reports of gender-based violence are pursued by law enforcement.

Our program investigates and mitigates the profound harms to women stemming from gender-based inequity, discrimination, and sexual and other forms of gender-based violence. In Africa, Eastern Europe and Central Asia, Southeast Asia and domestically, we focus on those most marginalized, including women and girls affected by conflict, migration, entrenched urban poverty, and sex work, where they are subject to denial of services, arrest, imprisonment and violence. This community-engaged program applies the tools of public health, social epidemiology, and prevention science to build the evidence base and develop approaches to public health prevention, treatment and care that ensure the rights, safety and well-being of marginalized women around the world.


Photo Credit: Haydee Lemus