India Pushed to Prioritize Women’s Health

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Late last week, India came under pressure during its review before the U.N. Human Rights Council for continually failing to make the health of women and girls a priority.

The Council, a body of countries that peer-review other countries\' human rights records, specifically pointed to India having the highest number of maternal deaths in the world, including those from unsafe abortion, its high rates of child marriage, and the significant numbers of women who have little to no access to contraception.

Prior to the review, the Center for Reproductive Rights submitted information to the several member countries, highlighting these very issues and recommended that India's peers urge the government to implement its own laws and policies to address the problems:

  • Urgently implement the Medical Termination Pregnancy Act in recognition that the high incidence of unsafe abortion is a leading cause of the country's high number of maternal deaths. Despite its adoption back in 1971, the law has not been properly enforced and as a result, women are denied legal abortions and many die.
  • Guarantee women's access to the full range of contraceptives as India has promised in its own national policy and in treaties, including information and counseling.
  • Improve the quality of maternal health care, and create an independent body to make sure current maternal health policies are enforced.
  • Take practical and meaningful steps to end child marriage-already required under law and a policy goal set by India that was supposed to be completed by 2010.
  • Ratify the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and withdraw its reservations to the parts of the treaty that address child marriage and equal rights for women within marriage.

Notably, the Council also made these recommendations to the Indian government and recognized that the country was violating women's human rights.

The Center strongly urges India to adopt the recommendations to save the health and lives of women and girls in the country.