The statement is worrying, to the say the least and it clearly casts a shadow on the promises that were made 25 years at the ICPD. But, all's not lost. As long as there's a tomorrow, there's hope. We've made some progress over the decades, and India's Maternal Mortality Rate is proof of it - we've gone from 424 per 100,000 live births in 1990-91 to 130 per 100,000 live births in 2014-16.
As per recent reports, using modern methods of contraception & family planning services is still far from reality. Facts suggest that 95% men in India don’t want to use condoms even though they are fully aware of the consequences. The strange bit is, imposing the use of contraception continues to be a woman’s responsibility, even though they aren’t allowed exercise their choices in the matter.
Speaking from my own personal experience of working with women in slums, villages & prisons, I meet many women who bear the consequences of not being able to fully utilise their reproductive health rights and that negatively impacts their & their children’s health.
Often, I have come across women who have conceived back-to-back, which means little to no gap between the pregnancies.
One of the women I met at the prison in Haryana was mother to 2-year-old twin girls who were living with her husband, while she raised her 11-month-old girl inside the prison. If this hasn’t taken you by surprise yet, allow me to inform that she was also 2-months pregnant at the time. While several inmates made fun of her, some understood her pain of not being able to decide on her own pregnancies. She had to bear children until she would have a boy, she said.
During another workshop of @grfcare at an urban slum in Delhi, I interacted with women who belong to a vulnerable lot. They come from disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds, which make exercising basic reproductive & sexual health choices an uphill task.
I met this lady who must've been 24 years old at the time I met her and she was pregnant with her third child without any proper gap among her children. When prodded, she said "Madam, it's not my choice to make. It's never my decision. My husband & mother-in-law take calls on the number of babies I must bear."
I inquired if she knew about the family planning services available to her. She said: "We all know about all the methods. But the men don't like using them and finally, when we reach the number of desired children, women go for surgeries."
When I suggested that she should be taking action, making her own choices, do something about it after all it's her body and health.
She replied: "It's been like this for most women I know and I don't think it'll ever change."
Time and again, we have stumbled upon several such stories, which have made our belief - that #familyplanning is integral if we wish improve a woman’s reproductive & sexual health regardless of her background - stronger.
When a woman has complete control over her body and is able to exercise her health choices freely, without any fear, it solves multiple issues faced by us as a society & a nation. Reproductive health accessibility can help us improve not just the population dynamics but also the maternal mortality, child mortality & overall health of a woman.