Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Intersectionality and the Struggle for Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights: An Analysis of UN Discursive Patterns

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posted on 2021-11-12, 12:05 authored by Ritchie, Amie

This thesis makes the normative argument that intersectionality should be taken seriously by the United Nations in their efforts to address Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR). This work suggests that, in spite of widespread recognition of the value of intersectionality for approaching issues of SRHR, the UN has insufficiently adopted the theory into its policy and practice. At the international policy level, intersectionality is nearly absent as a paradigm, yet its central components are dominant within mainstream development discourse. These components include discourses of women's empowerment, human rights, and men's involvement. Drawing on critical feminist and race theory, I argue that a narrow gender vision of SRHR is not sufficient and that intersectionality should be recognized both in discourse and practice by UN agencies. This argument is examined along the parallel tracks of the population movement within the UN system and the evolution of the global women's movement (GWM). This study shows that the UN system has traditionally adopted the approaches and discourses of the global women's movement, as analysed over four decades of UN population movement discourse. However, a shift occurring at the new millennium, as well as significant political barriers barring a discussion of race and racism, have led to a break in this relationship, damaging the take-up of GWM discourse. The conclusion drawn from this argument is that SRHR is an intersectional issue and the new and emerging intersectional paradigm must be adopted by the UN in order to effectively address SRHR on a local and global scale.


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Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

International Relations

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of International Relations

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of History, Philosophy, Political Science and International Relations


Thirkell-White, Ben