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Monitoring and reforming laws, regulations & policies

Review and reform laws to reduce health inequalities and strengthen access to universal health coverage.

Enabling law, rights and policy environments to reduce inequalities and promote effective and inclusive governance for health require the review and reform of all laws, regulations and policies that discriminate against and deny the rights of vulnerable and key populations and/or limit their access to health care services.

Laws that may need review or reform may include, for example:

  • laws that criminalize consensual same-sex sex
  • laws that criminalize adult sex work
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  • laws that provide for punitive approaches to drug use
  • laws that provide for unreasonably punitive approaches to people with tuberculosis
  • laws that criminalize HIV transmission, exposure and non-disclosure
  • laws that criminalize consensual sexual activity amongst older adolescents
  • health laws and policies that allow for breaches of the confidentiality and privacy rights of adolescent girls and young women, vulnerable and key populations
  • intellectual property laws that block access to affordable medicines
  • laws that provides inadequate protection against harmful gender norms and gender-based violence
  • laws that deny entry or access to health care services to migrants
  • age of consent laws that make it difficult for young people to access sexual and reproductive health services independently of a parent or guardian
  • laws and school policies that require pregnant girls to drop out of schools
  • laws that allow for child marriage, placing young girls at risk of HIV and sexual and reproductive health risks

The United Nations Development Programme supports countries to undertake law review and reform, through the concerted efforts of all national stakeholders, including understanding and political commitment from government executives and parliamentarians, informed decision-making by an active judiciary, advocacy by civil society organizations and the technical support of development partners.

Case Study Removing legal barriers for people who use drugs in Myanmar

In 2015, Myanmar’s Parliament removed the legal prohibition on possession of needles and syringes in the Excise Act in order to support people who use drugs and to enable health workers to implement needle and syringe exchange programmes. This law reform measure was a priority recommendation endorsed by the joint Parliamentarian and Community Network Consortium Committee on Human Rights and HIV, as part of a legal review conducted in the country.

Review of country progress in addressing law, rights and policy barriers to universal access to HIV services in Asia and the Pacific

Case Study Tax law reform for better health in Philippines

In 2012, the President Benigno Aquino III of the Philippines passed the Sin Tax Reform Law, which taxes tobacco and alcohol. The law reform initiative not only intends to discourage people from tobacco and alcohol consumption—important risk factors for non-communicable diseases—but also serves to increase resources for health, since the tax revenues are used to finance universal health coverage and better health care.

WHO and UNDP (2016) Non-communicable diseases: What Heads of State and Government Need to Know

Key resources

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