How Can the Modi Government Improve Women’s Health and Rights

Will the government consider amending the MTP Act to make safe abortions more accessible to women who seek it?

4 min read
How Can the Modi Government Improve Women’s Health and Rights

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Conversations around women’s reproductive health and rights have gained currency across the world in recent times, unfortunately in most cases, in the form of a fight against the anti-choice narrative to preserve the right to control their own bodies.

I take pride in the fact that my country empowered women by legalising abortion almost five decades ago in 1971 through the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act. Yet, the law is imploring some amendments that need to be made to keep up with changing contexts and technologies.


Stigma Associated With Sexual Reproductive Health

Sexual reproductive health (SRH) in this country continues to be associated with stigma, judgement and taboo.
(Photo: Liju Joseph/FIT)

Sexual reproductive health (SRH) in this country continues to be associated with stigma, judgement and taboo. It stems largely from the fact that issues such as menstruation, sex, abortion and such are still spoken about in hushed tones and behind closed doors.

Women who go through adolescence without adequate information and awareness about SRH issues such as these end up having to grapple with ramifications of incomplete or wrong information which in turn affects their health seeking behaviours through their lifetime. They are unable to imagine a different future for their daughters as well as they themselves continue to wait to be sensitized, informed and empowered.

It is only if women know about the different methods of contraception, can they demand the appropriate method that suits them best, depending on if and when they want to have a child.

It is only if women know about the risks associated with unprotected sex, can they engage in safe and responsible sexual behaviours. It is only if women know about the possibilities of deaths and injuries by going to back-alley providers will they prefer opting for institutional abortions and deliveries.

Will the government consider amending the MTP Act to make safe abortions more accessible to women who seek it?

What About Nutrition, Sanitation, Hygiene for Women?

‘Period. End of Sentence.’ is a documentary on menstruation issues in rural India.
(Photo: Instagram/Guneetmonga)

It is not reproductive health alone that needs to be addressed. Some other determinants of maternal health include nutrition, sanitation and hygiene, gender equity, education, etc. Ensuring good nutrition at adolescence, youth and for young mothers will ascertain good nutritional outcomes for their newborns. Similarly, the Swachh Bharat initiative was exemplary insofar as it sought to build toilets in every home.

We may have toilets in most households today, but how many women are using them? How many women and girls in rural India are able to access or afford sanitary napkins?

Appalling as it may sound, many girls even today drop out of school once they reach puberty.

The issues are multi-fold. The key is to catch them young. Sensitization programmes in schools and community meetings on SRH issues such as menstrual health, family planning, sex education etc. hold fundamental value.

The math is quite simple.

When programmatic interventions are targeted at adolescent girls and youth, women are far more likely to bring about behaviour change that can have positive reverberations across generations. They turn out to be empowered wives, responsible and informed mothers and better mothers-in-law.

Or she can choose to be a single and healthy woman, who is not judged for walking up to a doctor and asking for an abortion or contraception.


The need for health support does not end there.

The government also needs to envision and implement healthcare interventions for elderly care that would reassure me of my government’s commitment towards ensuring that women do not suffer from age-related health issues and lack dignity in death.

This needs greater investment in government health facilities and medical education which would help the ageing population lessen their dependency on exorbitantly priced private hospitals that have zero accountability.

Women need their government to make ageing a less painful experience and provide unhindered healthcare support as they grow older.

For achieving the above, the government must adopt a life cycle approach to prioritising women’s health. Scores of women like me across the country have many expectations from the new government. Given that the general election saw a female voter turnout of 292 million compared to a 314 million male turnout, the message is rather clear. Women have given a roaring mandate to this government with the hope that their needs will be prioritised and met.

Women have a right to a supportive environment that enables them to lead a healthy life right from the womb to the tomb, and I am confident and hopeful that the Prime Minister elect will lead us to turn this dream into a reality of New India, India that cares for its women.

(Bhavani Giddu is a public health communications professional and tweets as @bgiddu)

(This is an opinion piece and the views expressed are the author’s own. FIT neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)

(This story was auto-published from a syndicated feed. No part of the story has been edited by The Quint.)

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Topics:  Women's Health   MTP Act 

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