Health and human rights
THE right to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health is not a new concept. Internationally, it was first articulated in the 1946 Constitution of the WHO, whose preamble defines “Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”. The preamble further states that “the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health is one of the fundamental rights of every human being without distinction of race, religion, political belief, economic or social condition.”
The right to health means that States must generate conditions in which everyone can be as healthy as possible. The right to health does not mean the right to be healthy. The right to health has been enshrined in numerous international and regional human rights treaties as well as national constitutions all over the world. All countries which are Members of the United Nations may become members of WHO by accepting its Constitution. Now it has 194 parties, Bangladesh is also a member state.
Under Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that; “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services”. Moreover, the right to health is also protected in other international human rights instruments including article 12 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
The right to health is also recognised in several regional instruments, such as the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights , the Additional Protocol to the American Convention on Human Rights in the Area of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, known as the Protocol of San Salvador, and the European Social Charter, The American Convention on Human Rights and the European Convention for the Promotion of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms contain provisions related to health, such as the right to life, the prohibition on torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, and the right to family and private life.
According to Article 18 (1) of the Constitution of Bangladesh stated that; The State shall regard the raising of the level of nutrition and the improvement of public health as among its primary duties, and in particular shall adopt effective measures to prevent the consumption, except for medical purposes or for such other purposes as may be prescribed by law, of alcoholic and other intoxicating drinks and of drugs which are injurious to health.
Human rights obligations are defined and guaranteed by international customary law and international human rights treaties, creating binding obligations on the States that have ratified them to give effect to these rights. The Committee on ICESCR has underlined that; States should at a minimum adopt a national strategy to ensure to all the enjoyment of the right to health, based on human rights principles.
Finally, the right to health or the right to health care is recognised in at least 115 constitutions. The right to health is relevant to all States; every State has ratified at least one international human rights treaty recognising the right to health. The UN Charter declares that promoting respect for human rights, and international human rights treaties envisage a particular role for UN bodies and specialised agencies in their implementation.
The writer is Student of LLM at South Asian University, New Delhi, India.