In a new report, the Center for Reproductive Rights calls for legal action in response to India's staggering maternal mortality problem. Despite the country's growing economy and an ambitious rural health initiative, over 100,000 women die from pregnancy-related causes each year, more than anywhere else in the world. Many more suffer debilitating complications that they endure in silence due to impunity and lack of accountability in the health system. Maternal Mortality in India: Using International and Constitutional Law to Promote Accountability and Change assesses the crisis and urges a human rights approach to solving it.
Gender Inequality Drives Maternal Mortality
The medical causes of maternal mortality are well known and largely preventable, yet government policies have failed to have an impact. There are several reasons for this: the prevalence of child marriage and early pregnancy, malnutrition, poor quality healthcare, complications from unsafe abortion, and inadequate access to family planning information and services.
These are all issues addressed in the Program of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), which took place in Cairo, Egypt, in 1994. As the year 2009 marks the fifteenth anniversary of the Cairo Conference, governments must renew and reinvigorate their efforts to eliminate these preventable causes of women's mortality and ill health.
At the root of India's maternal mortality crisis is gender inequality, implying that the problem cannot be resolved merely through the nation's health policies. Solutions must be grounded in broader recognition of women's human rights to health, non-discrimination, equality, and most of all, life.
Human Rights Law Can Help Fight Maternal Mortality
Human rights law and the Indian Constitution provide a strong basis for advocates to demand change and hold the government accountable for maternal deaths. Maternal Mortality in India provides litigators, activists, judges, and citizens with a resource for using human rights law and legal strategies to confront this critical threat to women's rights and lives.