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December 10, 2020

Women have been the worst sufferers of Covid-19 due to multiple reasons. The pandemic warrants a reminder that reproductive rights are human rights – they are essential and urgent

 

It may not be wrong to say that human rights were introduced in India right back in 1950 with the development of the Constitution of our country. The human rights movement has seen rapid progress and success, and many national programs and mechanisms have been introduced to complement the growing recognition of an individual’s rights.

 

Reproductive rights continue to be ambiguous in the Indian context. While the importance of the rights of both men and women to choose and control their own reproductive functions has gained prominence, the introduction of this concept is especially complicated in India given the complex social structures – procreation is often seen as a social expectation and an individual’s rights are overlooked. However, in recent times, reproductive rights in a more comprehensive sense have gained attention. This can, in some way, be attributed to the relentless efforts of civil society organizations that have reinforced the relevance of international treaties into the Indian context.

 

Experts have pointed to how reproductive rights form an integral part of human rights at a broad level and even of our Constitution at a national level, and therefore India’s obligations to them. There is reciprocity between reproductive rights and a larger human rights framework. Just as human rights cannot be realized without promoting women’s reproductive rights, reproductive rights draw their meaning and force from long-recognized human rights. However, the merging of the two in practice remains ambiguous. Indeed, the fact that reproductive rights apply to everyone – irrespective of age and marital status – is a concept difficult to get through to an Indian audience. It is no surprise then that reproductive rights have not been completely established despite being an innate part of every individual.

 

In India, one woman dies every 15 minutes due to lack of healthcare during pregnancy and childbirth. Although the country legalized abortion almost five decades ago, access is extremely limited, and it is estimated that one woman in India dies every three hours due to an unsafe abortion. Despite a national law penalizing marriage of girls below 18 years of age, in practice India continues to account for the highest number of child marriages; and despite policies and schemes guaranteeing women maternal healthcare, India accounts for 20% of all maternal deaths globally. Various states have enacted coercive population policies that exclude families with more than two children from welfare programs, government jobs, political participation, and access to education and health facilities – without guaranteeing couples access to a full range of contraceptive services.


Further, Indian women face among the world’s highest risk of HIV/AIDS and discriminatory treatment if infected, forced abortions of female foetuses, trafficking for forced prostitution, custodial rape in government institutions, sexual harassment in the workplace; and harmful customs that seriously undermine reproductive health. The issue of right to reproductive health especially abortion, takes on special significance in the Indian context as various national and international stakeholders struggle to bring meaning to the important concepts of women empowerment, rights and choice.


For example, a woman should have the space to decide whether she wants to marry or not, who she wants to marry, whether she wants to have children or not, how many children does she want to have, and what will be the spacing between them. This becomes important because even though both the male and the female participate in procreation, it is the female who has the biological responsibility of ensuring the complete development of the foetus. Pregnancy has a larger and more lasting effect on the woman who is pregnant in comparison to her partner. It therefore becomes a woman’s human right to decide whether and when she wants to have children and choose what happens with her body.

 

Historically, reproductive health-related laws and policies in India have failed to take a women’s rights-based approach. Simply put, based on the multiple definitions of reproductive rights, it can be said that they include some or all of the following rights – right to safe and legal abortion; right to control one’s reproductive functions; right to access in order to make reproductive choices free of coercion, discrimination and violence; right to access education about contraception and sexually transmitted diseases and freedom from coerced sterilization and contraception; right to protection from gender-based practices such as female genital cutting and male genital mutilation. The need for us to recognize and address these as rights has become even clearer in the tough times of the pandemic when due to massive changes in family and social dynamics, disruption in peer support and lack of health facilities, women have been left to suffer – because they have not been informed and empowered to demand what is due to them.

 

The Indian setting is heavily guided by the social context that defines the pressures, constraints, and options for women’s reproductive behaviour. Women’s enjoyment of their reproductive rights is heavily undermined by gender-biased norms and practices that govern family matters. At a higher level one finds several apparent contradictions in how policies are set, how services are delivered, how demographic trends and desires about family size and composition shape the demand for contraception and abortion.


Although India was among the first countries in the world to develop legal and policy frameworks guaranteeing access to abortion and contraception, women and girls continue to experience significant barriers to full enjoyment of their reproductive rights – it is time to change this. On this Human Rights Day, let us pledge to support and steer reproductive rights, not only because we want healthier women, but because we want empowered women and girls.

By: Anisha Aggarwal
June 2, 2018

The shortage of trained providers and concomitant lack of facilities offering safe abortion services are two of the key contributory causes of unsafe abortions. Unfortunately, the one policy action that could address this acute public health crisis is yet to be taken.

 

Earlier this week was the International Day of Action for Women’s Health, and I hope the Government will take the action of amending the MTP Act. This will pave the way for making a trained abortion provider available at every facility close to where the poorest and disadvantaged women live.

 

I believe this single action will dramatically change the pathways for women who need abortion care and be the biggest advancement for women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights since the passage of the abortion law in 1971.

Source: The Pioneer
May 14, 2018

After seeing a fall for the first time in a decade in 2016-17, abortion figures rose again by 5% in the city in 2017-18. Health experts called it a positive sign indicative of the fact that more women are accessing safe abortions at legal centres.

“It is encouraging to note that abortion services are available to girls and women of all age groups,” said Vinoj Manning, executive director, Ipas Development Foundation that works for reproductive rights.

May 8, 2018

In order to strengthen the safe abortion services in the city as well as the state, the health & family welfare department has recently conducted training of its personnel.

They will be ensuring that all due medical procedures are followed during the abortion process at different district hospitals and health centres.

Authorities informed that the primary objectives of these centres is to provide safe, high quality services including abortion, family planning as well as post abortion counselling.

 

The Assam government has set up centres for safe abortion in different districts of Assam. Gynaecologists from different institutions are engaged in imparting training to the medical officers and nurses who will be working in these centres.The doctors of the centres will be given training for 12 days, whereas the nurses will be trained for 6 days, informed officials.

 

According to sources, Ipas Development Foundation, a global organisation, is providing technical support to the state government in this initiative.

April 3, 2018

The state government is in the process of training medical officers and nursing staff on comprehensive abortion care in different districts to ensure women have access to safe abortion by trained medical staff.

 

The state government has set up centers in 23 districts where 65 gynaecologists are engaged in imparting training to medical officers (MBBS doctors) and nursing staff. While doctors are being trained for 12 days, nurses have a shorter training duration of six day. So far, 426 doctors have been trained under this programme. Ipas Development Foundation, a global organization, is providing technical support to the state government in this initiative.

March 5, 2018

India took the landmark step for legalizing induced abortion in the country with the fairly liberal Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971 and placing us among 15 countries around the globe that had a liberal abortion law then. On International Women’s Day, we all need to join hands to make the commitments to women a reality.

December 13, 2017

Medical methods using the drugs recommended by the World Health Organization account for four in five abortions in India. Yet, they are not readily available at public health facilities and women have to resort to buying them from a chemist, the report said.

 

Vinoj Manning, Executive Director IPAS Development Foundation said, "While continuing the efforts to strengthen public and private health system to provide abortion care to women in line with the provisions of the law and national guidelines, we need to ensure that women who self-use MA have access to correct information and systems for supportive care including identifying danger signs, access to health facilities for post-abortion care (if required) and post-abortion contraception."

Source: NDTV
December 5, 2017

The tricky debate on Abortion: Where the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act conflicts with two other laws?

 

While MTP Act itself does not direct anyone to approach the court for permission to terminate pregnancy post-20 weeks, the recent few years have seen a rush of court petitions seeking permission for abortion. Often these have been either rape survivors with unwanted pregnancies or couples who found out about foetal abnormalities that are either incompatible with survival or posed the risk of substantial handicap to the baby upon birth. The curious aspect is why these cases are suddenly coming to court with increasing frequency only now, despite the fact that the MTP law is unchanged, and issues of foetal abnormalities as well as rape-related unwanted pregnancies in minors are something doctors have always dealt with in professional capacity.

 

"The cases that have come to the courts and in the spotlight of media are in the direction of foetal abnormalities and rape pregnancies. But that is a very small percentage out of all women deprived of safe abortions," says Vinoj Manning, Executive Director of Delhi based non-profit Ipas Development Foundation.

November 28, 2017

Despite an endorsement from the World Health Organization, the Union government is not likely to go ahead with a key provision in the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill, 2014. The proposed amendment expands the definition of legal abortion providers—to include nurses, auxiliary nurse midwives (ANMs) and doctors practising Ayurveda, Homeopathy, Unani and Siddha—to perform non-surgical abortions in case of pregnancies up to nine weeks.

 

"This was the most important amendment to the MTP Act and would have helped poor women access safe abortion services. There's a huge shortage of doctors in the country, and this change would have helped plug that gap,” said Vinoj Manning, director, Ipas Development Foundation, an NGO that works for safe abortions.

Source: The Week
November 22, 2017

Niketa Mehta was in the 24th week of her pregnancy when a test revealed substantial abnormalities in the foetus' heart that posed a risk to its survival. Mehta decided to abort, but found herself restrained by the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act, Mehta's obstetrician sought judicial authorisation but the court refused.

 

This was in 2008. Nine years since, in July this year, the Supreme Court allowed a woman to abort an over-20 week foetus which had serious cardiac impairments. The courts have clearly come a long way, reflecting a broader change in society, but a legislative amendment to increase the gestation limit for abortion from 20 to 24 weeks has been hanging fire for three years. The 2014 draft bill proposes to allow abortion for up to 24 weeks' gestation in rape cases, and to allow AYUSH (Ayurveda, Unani, Siddha, Homoeopathy) doctors, auxiliary nurse midwives (ANMs) and nurses to conduct abortions.

 

The amendment also proposes to remove the gestation limit altogether in case a foetus displays specified abnormalities. This would include cases where the "abnormalities would be incompatible with life", said Vinoj Manning, executive director of Ipas Development Foundation (IDF), a New Delhi-based organisation that provides comprehensive abortion care (CAC) services across 10 states.

Source: India Spend
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