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Right to regulate fertility

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Women should not be bound to use a method due to lack of contraceptive choices. If it is so, it would be a direct violation of rights. An expansion in the basket of contraceptive options is an effort to ensure that family planning doesn’t become coercive due to lack of choices

(The News Network)

One of the most significant ways to empower women is to give them control of their body. To create an enabling environment for them to make decisions concerning their s

xual and reproductive health — including when to have children and how many. Family planning and access to contraception is one of the most effective ways of doing so. Every woman should have the right to have access to these services, including counselling, which will enable her to make an informed choice as well as exercise her right to regulate fertility.

Women should not be bound to use a method due to lack of contraceptive choices. If it is so, it would be a direct violation of rights. An expansion in the basket of contraceptive options is an effort to ensure that family planning doesn’t become coercive due to lack of choices—it should be able to cater to the needs of individuals across demographics, religions, regions and socio-economic class, keeping in mind the affordability and accessibility, says a report that appeared in Huffington Post.

This provides details of four “interrelated and essential” elements of the right to the highe

est attainable standard of physical and mental health—availability, accessibility, acceptability, and quality.

However, availability and accessibility of contraceptive services have been of concern to women in India. Contrary to the general perception, most women in India do want a smaller family. The national data tells us that the desired family size is less than two children (desired fertility rate is 1.9 as per National Family Health Survey, NFHS III) and almost 32 million (3 crore 20 lakhs) women’s need for family planning is not met, i.e., they want to either delay or stop childbearing but are not using or not able to use any contraception for diverse reasons.

Additionally, there has been an unequal share in the use of the modern methods of contraception among women and men in India – where the larger burden has fallen on women. According to the NFHS III, among the total 48.5% use of modern contraceptive methods, men only contribute 6.2% with women accounting for the remaining 42.3% through various methods, which is also skewed towards female sterilisation (37.3 %).

Due to the insufficient access and limited choice of temporary methods of contraception, few countries in the world rely as much as India on sterilisation as a method of contraception. More than one in three (36%) Indian women resort to it as against one in 20 (5%) in Bangladesh. In 2014, close to 150,000 Indian women underwent sterilisation as against some 5000 men. In 2005-2006, female sterilisation accounted for 66% of contraceptive use.

The majority of women (77%) who underwent this procedure had not used any method before they were sterilised, and more than half were sterilised before they reached 26 years of age. In a word, sterilisation has so far been used as a proxy for contraception. These are “wake-up statistics” that need to be noted and acted upon.

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