Women’s rights, family planning, and population control: the emergence of reproductive rights in the United Nations (1960s–70s)

Bracke, M. A. (2022) Women’s rights, family planning, and population control: the emergence of reproductive rights in the United Nations (1960s–70s). International History Review, 44(4), pp. 751-771. (doi: 10.1080/07075332.2021.1985585)

[img] Text
252850.pdf - Published Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution.



The article traces the emergence of reproductive rights principles in the UN during the 1960s–70s. Family planning programmes were the key discursive terrain on which conflicts over fertility, global population, and women's roles in ‘third world development’ were interlinked. The UN’s Commission on the Status of Women was a key actor: in the late 1960s it defined family planning in relation to a broadened definition of human rights, and repositioned it as a women’s rights issue. This shift resulted from competing but in some respects converging concepts of women’s rights among Western-based, communist-aligned and Global South-based women’s organisations at the Commission. While subsequent UN conferences, specifically Bucharest 1974 and Mexico City 1975, revealed enduring global conflicts over ‘population management’ and ‘third world development’, the UN reframed family planning in relation to human rights principles. It hereby responsibilised women in their social roles, potentially enhancing their reproductive autonomy – but failing to fully abandon the population control agenda, against the calls of feminist movements in the Global South. The article contributes to histories of the UN and of the emergence of globally connected feminist movements, and is based on archives and publications of women’s rights NGOs, UN agencies, and family planning organisations.

Item Type:Articles
Additional Information:Funding: The Leverhulme Trust.
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Bracke, Professor Maud
Authors: Bracke, M. A.
College/School:College of Arts & Humanities > School of Humanities > History
Journal Name:International History Review
Publisher:Taylor & Francis
ISSN (Online):1949-6540
Published Online:18 November 2021
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2021 The Author
First Published:First published in International History Review 44(4): 751-771
Publisher Policy:Reproduced under a Creative Commons License

University Staff: Request a correction | Enlighten Editors: Update this record