National Consultation on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights

Attaining the goals of sustainable, equitable development requires that individuals are able to exercise control over their sexual and reproductive lives. This includes the rights to reproductive health as a component of overall health, throughout the life cycle, for both men and women, reproductive decision-making, including voluntary choice in marriage, family formation and determination of the number, timing and spacing of one's children and the right to have access to the information and means needed to exercise voluntary choice, equality and equity for men and women, to enable individuals to make free and informed choices in all spheres of life, free from discrimination based on gender, sexual and reproductive security, including freedom from sexual violence and coercion, and the right to privacy. There are several reproductive health concerns in India which needs to be addressed in order to improve reproductive health status of people. In India, the mother and child health programme (MCH) was launched in 1952. But today, amidst so many schemes to ensure safe delivery of women and provide accessibility to people to seek medical care and treatment as far as their sexual and reproductive health and rights are concerned, we don't see much improvement. The out of pocket expenditure of people has been increasing.

A National Consultation on Legal Interventions for Reproductive and Sexual Health- Realities and Prospects was organized by Prayas and Human Rights Law Network (HRLN) at Hotel Kailash Presidency in Bhopal (Madhya Pradesh), to address the various issues mentioned above. The main aim of this consultation was to bring together health activists, different civil society groups, and persons with disabilities, women organizations, geographically specific marginalized groups, doctors, lawyers, students, government representatives, service providers and media to help understand how using law accessibility to sexual and reproductive health and rights can be expanded.

Objectives of the Consultation

  • To create a forum for sharing and discussing good practices, lessons, as well as the barriers and constraints in realizing sexual and reproductive health and rights in India.
  • To review the existing policies, programmes, schemes and legislations (including international obligations) related to sexual and reproductive health in India.
  • To deliberate on achievements, challenges and processes in claiming sexual and reproductive health and rights using law.
  • To sensitize and build capacity among judicial and legal fraternity around sexual and reproductive health and rights.
  • To equip CSOs and NGOs, especially those working in marginalized communities, with tools and information to make effective use of law in advocacy for sexual and reproductive health and rights.
  • To identify and draw consensus on issues and agenda for further advocacy, research and action around sexual and reproductive health and rights, especially using law

There was a participation of about 200 people at the consultation. There were NGOs, CBOs, lawyers, doctors, medical students, law students, retired professionals, professors of colleges, health activists, government officials, etc. The consultation began with welcome and introduction by Prayas team and hereafter an address by Dr. Narendra Gupta. The team of HRLN presented on legal initiatives taken by the project team in the last one year. Prof Shiv Mathur, Adviser Health in CM's Office in Bhopal talked about recent developments on sexual and reproductive health and rights in India. Mr. Arun Srivastava, a consultant of NHSRC shed some light on outreach services and the role of frontline health workers in ensuring sexual and reproductive health and rights. An advocate from HRLN shared her work in Odisha around the issues mentioned above. The next session was on PCPNDT Act which was taken by Mr. Rajan Choudhary who has done extensive work with the government of Rajasthan in trying to eliminate female foeticide. Advocate Rajni Soren from HRLN shared her legal interventions in Chhattisgarh around failure of female sterilizations and death of women after female sterilization operations. Ms. Chhaya Pachauli from Prayas talked about unnecessary hysterectomies conducted by the doctors and how it is a gross violation of sexual and reproductive health and rights of women. At the end of this session, HLRN advocates shared their cases that they have been fighting for women whose sterilizations had failed and the number of women who received compensation. A panel of speakers in the next sessions discussed in detail about the representation of young people in National Health Policy and issues of adolescents as far as their sexual and reproductive health is concerned. There were discussions on National Food Security Act as well and the lawyers of HRLN shared various cases that they had filed regarding this issue. Prayas shared its experience of fighting against privatization of primary health centres by filing a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) at the High Court in Jaipur. With this the first day of the consultation ended.

The second day of the consultation began with discussion around discrimination faced by people living with HIV while accessing sexual and reproductive health services. A team member, Mr. Hari Singh from Delhi Network of Positive People presented his work around this issue and his personal journey. There was another speaker from Naz Foundation who talked about sexual and reproductive health & rights of transgender persons and she also talked about her personal journey of discrimination that she faced since a child. Lawyers from HRLN shared the legal initiatives taken to fight for the rights of people affected with HIV and transgender persons. Thereafter each project state presented their work in the last one year around SRHR- advocacy and legal interventions. And with this the two day consultation in Bhopal came to an end.