End of Year Message from the Director

28 December, 2016


2016 has been a turbulent year, with conservative forces gaining ground and causing women growing anxiety over lingering threats to their reproductive rights. The year also offered a few occasions for celebration: we joined in solidarity with our Polish sisters when they succeeded in stopping a proposed law which, if passed, would have made all abortions illegal. We celebrated when, in the midst of political turmoil in Brazil, the Supreme Court set a landmark precedent by ruling in favour of decriminalisation of abortion in the first trimester. And we rejoiced over the court ruling in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt in the US that upheld women’s constitutional right to safe and legal abortion.

Sadly, the outcome of the US election casts a dark shadow over hard-won women’s and minority rights. With the xenophobic, misogynist, and homo- and transphobic comments by the US President-Elect, who has already stated that women who undergo abortion should be punished, and with an ultraconservative incoming vice president who has announced his intention to overturn the historic Roe vs Wade ruling, attacks on women’s reproductive rights appear to be imminent.

At RHM, we are all the more motivated to support the generation and dissemination of evidence to strengthen the SRHR agenda, and to keep a watchful eye on political trends that attack fundamental human rights. We are committed to working with you to respond to conservative forces with robust evidence, and by supporting united advocacy to demand the implementation of evidence-informed and rights-based laws, policies and programmes.

In the year that has passed, we gathered evidence on “Violence as a barrier to SRHR”: a theme issue co-edited with Claudia Garcia Moreno (WHO). This issue included contributions on a range of emerging topics, including violence in the context of conflicts and against refugees and displaced populations, with an emphasis on the conflict in Syria; mistreatment and abuse of women in the context of maternal health care; sexual violence against men and boys in conflicts; and discrimination and violence on grounds on sexual orientation or gender identity.

Our most recent issue on “Sexuality, sexual and reproductive health and rights in later life” contributes to the pool of knowledge in this area. Sexual and reproductive health and rights in older adults remain virtually invisible in the health research and development agenda, and this was reflected in the volume and spectrum of the contributions received for this issue. We hope you will continue to submit papers on this neglected theme.

We also published a number of papers on other important and pertinent topics; I urge you to take time to read these. We continued offering RHM articles in other languages in line with our commitment to make knowledge accessible to all. In 2016, we published the 100th edition of RHM in translation, with more than 800 translations of RHM articles now available in languages other than English. A French edition was produced this year, and our regional teams in Beijing, Cairo, Lima, Moscow, New Delhi and Recife ensured the translation and dissemination of important evidence into Chinese, Arabic, Spanish, Russian, Hindi and Portuguese.

The importance of our publications is illustrated by the number of readers we reach; RHM articles were viewed by more than 300,000 readers in the course of the year. In 2016, we have taken important measures to strengthen RHM’s foundation in light of the changing times and with the aim of further expanding our reach. We have published our last issue with Elsevier and are forging a new partnership with Taylor & Francis. We are grateful to Elsevier for the long and fruitful collaboration over the years, that has helped the RHM journal to reach so many people. As of 1 January 2017, we are transitioning to a fully open access publication model, in order to offer free immediate access to our material, and allow advocates, policy makers, community workers, healthcare providers, civil society and others who may not have institutional access to subscription journals to more readily download and read our material – free of charge and without the need to log-in. We are also adjusting our publication schedule to offer publication of time-sensitive analysis and critical perspectives on topical areas on a continuous basis, in addition to our theme issues.

In 2017, we have two pertinent theme issues coming up. We are currently reviewing a diverse pool of contributions in response to the call for papers for our next theme issue on “Disability and sexual and reproductive health and rights”, which I have the pleasure to co-edit with Janet Price and Renu Addlakha.

We are also expecting the publication of a supplement on Reproductive Health in Arab countries and Turkey, working closely with guest editors Jocelyn De Jong and Huda Zurayk of the American University of Beirut.

Next autumn we are dedicating a theme issue to SRHR in humanitarian crises, a grossly neglected dimension of the humanitarian response. In a panel discussion organised by RHM and Médecins du Monde earlier this year, experts highlighted a range of concerns over the inadequate response to the SRHR needs of migrants and refugees arriving in Europe, offering insights into the complexities of delivering comprehensive SRHR services, even in the context of resource-rich European countries. We hope to receive wide-ranging evidence from around the globe for this issue. Look out for the call for papers on our website in January. We will be planning other upcoming events and workshops on our theme topics, which will be announced on our website in due course.

Our achievements in 2016 are thanks to the continuing contributions and support of our authors, peer reviewers, readers, our global teams, editorial board members, trustees, and dedicated staff, and the generous support of our donor, the John D and Catherine T Macarthur Foundation. Your support and contributions are increasingly important as we aim to intensify our efforts to protect and strengthen sexual and reproductive rights worldwide. RHM is committed to remaining at the forefront in serving as a compass pointing to the true north of evidence-based policies, no matter where the political winds blow.  As we prepare to meet the challenges of a changing political climate and economic uncertainties, I thank you for your commitment to SRHR and to RHM in the past year, and I hope we can count on your continued support and contributions in 2017.

Happy holidays and warmest wishes for health, happiness and success in the New Year.

With deep appreciation,


Shirin Heidari

Director and Editor

Reproductive Health Matters