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Med Law Rev. 2013 Mar;21(2):278-309. doi: 10.1093/medlaw/fws036. Epub 2012 Nov 1.

Realising social justice in public health law.

Author information

  • 1School of Law, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK.

Abstract

Law has played an important, but largely constitutive, role in the development of the public health enterprise. Thus, law has been central to setting up the institutions and offices of public health. The moral agenda has, however, been shaped to a much greater extent by bioethics. While social justice has been placed at the heart of this agenda, we argue that there has been little place within dominant conceptions of social justice for gender equity and women's interests which we see as crucial to a fully realised vision of social justice. We argue that, aside from particular interventions in the field of reproduction, public health practice tends to marginalise women-a claim we support by critically examining strategies to combat the HIV pandemic in sub-Saharan Africa. To counter the marginalisation of women's interests, this article argues that Amartya Sen's capabilities approach has much to contribute to the framing of public health law and policy. Sen's approach provides an evaluative and normative framework which recognises the importance of both gender and health equity to achieving social justice. We suggest that domestic law and international human rights provisions, in particular the emerging human right to health, offer mechanisms to promote capabilities, and foster a robust and inclusive conception of social justice.

KEYWORDS:

Capabilities Approach; Gender; HIV/AIDS; Public Health Law; Right to Health; Social Justice

PMID:
23118470
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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