Leading SRHR organisations issue a call to action to defend frontline health care workers

defend-frontline-defenders graphic

On 5 April 2022, FIGO joined the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), the International Confederation of Midwives (ICM), IPAS Partners for Reproductive Justice (IPAS), and MSI Reproductive Choices (MSI) in the launch of a joint initiative “Defending the Frontline Defenders of Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights”. 

The aim of this initiative is to strengthen the protection of frontline sexual and reproductive health workers and advocates. The five organisations called on the wider health sector and authorities around the world to step up efforts to ensure that all health workers and advocates are able to carry out their work without stigma, fear, threat or intimidation. 

Hostility directed at frontline health care workers and advocates reportedly occurs most often at the hands of patients and their families and visitors. Notably however, those working in the field of sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) often face hostility from their colleagues, institutions, local communities and public figures too.   

It is unacceptable that those on the frontline providing essential sexual and reproductive health care are on the receiving end of discrimination and violence for simply doing their jobs. We all know colleagues who have battled with stigma, career blocking, physical attack and other forms of harassment, forfeiting their mental and physical health and wellbeing in the process. This cannot go on. Alongside our partners, the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics (FIGO) is determined to raise awareness of this issue, and commits to effecting change for our colleagues providing sexual and reproductive health services around the world.  

– Dr Jeanne Conry, FIGO President 

As the global voice for women’s health, FIGO joins other leaders in the field of SRHR to stress that, around the world, health workers and advocates face greater discrimination, harassment and, at times, even physical attack, in settings and contexts where laws, public policies, government leaders and other public authorities are hostile to SRHR.  

Solidarity from partners in the Defending Frontline Defenders of SRHR initiative 

IPPF sexual and reproductive health service providers around the world are regularly subjected to threats and abuse as they tirelessly work to deliver life-saving services. This is an unacceptable situation that must stop. Anti-rights and anti-gender perpetrators should not prevent people from accessing essential care or from making decisions about their sexuality and reproduction. All human beings should enjoy bodily autonomy to the full. As a major service provider and leading advocate of SRHR with members in over 120 countries, IPPF joins this call to action and urges governments to ensure the safety of all health care providers and advocates as human rights defenders, without harassment, discrimination and abuse.

– Dr Alvaro Bermejo, Director General of the International Planned Parenthood Federation 


ICM is in regular communication with many of its more than 140 midwives' associations located in over 120 countries. We know that every day, midwives suffer from gender-based abuse and harassment on the job and the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated this type of discriminatory treatment in new ways. When midwives’ rights are abused or taken advantage of, women and girls everywhere suffer. Robust investments are needed in policies, pay and protections that allow midwives to perform their full scope of practice.

– Dr Franka Cadée, President of the International Confederation of Midwives 


Around the world, abortion providers and advocates bring dedication, compassion and courage to their work – often in the face of harassment, stigma, and even violence. Just as sexual and reproductive health and rights are essential, the people who care for us are essential. Frontline SRHR defenders are our partners for reproductive justice, and at Ipas we are committed to ensuring their human rights are respected and protected.

– Dr Anu Kumar, Ipas President and CEO 


At MSI, we are committed to expanding access to reproductive choice because we believe in every woman’s right to make choices about her body and her life. This work is only possible because of the courage of our frontline health care workers who work tirelessly to protect sexual and reproductive rights despite facing daily harassment, stigma and abuse. It’s time to say enough is enough. Alongside our partners, we pledge to do everything we can to step up, respect and protect the rights of our colleagues to work and advocate free from fear, threat, and intimidation.

–  Kate Austen, MSI Reproductive Choices’ Institutional Resilience Lead 


Read the full call-to-action published in BMJ Global Health: Defending frontline defenders of sexual and reproductive health rights: a call to action-oriented, human rights-based responses. 

Find out more about the joint initiative Defending Frontline Defenders of SRHR