Women's health plan

The Women’s Health Plan underpins actions to improve women’s health inequalities by raising awareness around women’s health, improving access to health care and reducing inequalities in health outcomes for girls and women, both for sex-specific conditions and in women’s general health.

Annex C - Legal framework

This Plan is underpinned by domestic and international legislation.

Human Rights

All human beings are entitled to basic rights and freedoms. The Scottish Government is committed to building an inclusive Scotland that protects, respects, promotes and implements internationally recognised human rights. We aim to make human rights considerations part of the day-to-day business of government – the development of the Women's Health Plan is an example of this.


This Plan is underpinned by domestic human rights and equality legislation including:

Equality Act (2010) and the Public Sector Equality Duty

The Equality Act 2010 provides a framework to combat discrimination in areas of life such as employment, education, access to goods and services, the exercise of public functions and membership of clubs and associations. As well as the characteristic of sex, the Act covers a number of other characteristics – age, disability, marriage and civil partnership, race, religion or belief, sexual orientation, gender reassignment and pregnancy and maternity.

The Public Sector Equality Duty

The public sector equality duty (or general duty) in the Equality Act 2010 came into force in 2011. As outlined by the Equality and Human Rights Commission,[88] the public sector equality duty requires public bodies to have due regard to the need to eliminate discrimination, advance equality of opportunity and foster good relations between different people. The purpose of the equality duty is to integrate consideration of equality in the day-to-day decision making and activities of the public sector. The general equality duty requires organisations to consider how they could positively contribute to the advancement of equality and good relations. It requires equality considerations to be reflected into the design of policies and the delivery of services, including internal policies, and for these issues to be kept under review.

In Scotland, we have set a framework to help public authorities improve their performance of the duty – the Scottish specific duties. These help the Scottish Government to deliver on ambitions for a more equal and just Scotland.

In accordance with our equality duties, a full Equality Impact Assessment (EQIA) will be published alongside this Plan. This EQIA provides further detail of how the development of the Plan has been underpinned by a commitment to reducing inequality.

The Abortion Act 1967

The Abortion Act 1967 sets out the legal requirements which should be met before an abortion can be carried out lawfully in Scotland. This Act still applies across Great Britain, although policy on abortion is now a devolved matter and so the Scottish Parliament has the ability to legislate on abortion.

The Abortion Act did not legalise abortion. While the act provides a set of criteria for when abortion is permissible, abortion in Scotland still requires two registered medical practitioners (doctors) to certify that they are of the opinion that at least one of the grounds under the Act for an abortion have been met.


Scotland's approach to human rights is also governed by international law. Seven major UN human rights treaties, along with eight Council of Europe human rights treaties, currently apply to Scotland.

As such, this Plan is also underpinned by international human rights legislation and treaties,[89] including:

  • the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD);
  • the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (CCPR);
  • the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR);
  • the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW);
  • the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD); and
  • the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC).

UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women

CEDAW[90] has been described as a 'bill of rights' for women. The United Kingdom ratified the Convention in 1986. The Scottish Government contributes to the United Kingdom's periodic reports to the UN and is an active participant in the oral examinations of the UK conducted by the UN Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.

In March 2021, the National Taskforce for Human Rights Leadership published 30 recommendations for a new human rights framework for Scotland. The Scottish Government has accepted all of these recommendations, and a new multi-treaty Human Rights Bill will be introduced to Parliament during this parliamentary session. The Bill will incorporate CEDAW into domestic legislation, so far as possible within devolved competence. This Plan has been drafted with consideration of CEDAW.

Article 12 of CEDAW relates to health and states that:

States Parties shall take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women in the field of healthcare in order to ensure, on a basis of equality of men and women, access to healthcare services, including those related to family planning.

With future-proofing in mind, recommendations have been drafted with consideration to CEDAW and Article 12 in particular.


Email: womenshealthplan@gov.scot

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