USC professor discusses sexual, reproductive rights in on-campus lecture

Ariana Guerra

A University of Southern California law professor gave a presentation on campus Monday on sexual and reproductive health to emphasize the interplay of global and national health policies.

Sofia Gruskin, who is also USC’s director of the Program on Global Health and Human Rights, discussed reproductive and sexual rights, current global debates on both rights and revisions being made on transgender issues at the Rapoport Center for Human Rights and Justice’s Fall Colloquium in Townes Hall.

“Reproductive rights first came up at the International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo,” Gruskin said. “[The conference] increased the understanding of what governments are responsible of doing.” 

Gruskin said she believes these issues need to be further challenged on an international level in order to continue advancing human rights and reproductive health. She said, although there are countries that are at the forefront of protecting sexual reproduction and health policies, other nations are more resistant to change.

“There are a number of conservative countries that are eliminating any indication of sexual rights,” Gruskin said. “There are countries watering down rights for sexual orientation. [These] implications, at the local level, have a huge impact right now for the UN.”

According to Gruskin, the International Classification of Disease, or ICD-10, is used for collecting and reporting health globally and discussed the document’s importance. The 10th installment of the diagnostic tool was established by the 43rd World Health Assembly in 1990, and the ICD is currently under revision. An 11th revision will be finalized in 2017.

Gruskin is part of an organization called Rights-Oriented Research and Education, or RORE, Network for Sexual and Reproductive Health, which hopes to contribute to the revisions of the ICD-11.

According to Gruskin, “gender identity disorder” is considered a mental disorder in the ICD-10. RORE aims to promote human rights and gender equality as well as conduct research and provide evidence to move being transgender from a behavioral illness to a reproductive health issue.

Rhiannon Hamam, second-year law student at the University, said she liked that Gruskin discussed the advancements that have been made in sexual rights and reproductive health.

“I liked that she highlighted positive shifts in discourse and focus, [such as] the move toward transgender rights and issues becoming part of the new conversation, but also said that regression was happening in some areas,” Hamam said. “We should be wary about re-conservatizing the health and human rights movement, like focusing on maternal health and family planning rather than evolving our focus to other issues as well.”