The latest buzzword is women’s reproductive autonomy

India’s advances in family planning initiatives, as well as achievements in life expectancy, maternal health, and gender empowerment. Instead of preserving each woman’s reproductive autonomy, society has become concerned with total fertility rates and the ideal population size of a family.

The Big Idea

The topic of this year’s World Population Day, Unleashing the Power of Gender Equality: Raising the Voices of Women and Girls to Unlock Our World’s Infinite Possibilities, is particularly pertinent to India. It is critical to prioritise reproductive autonomy as a core component in order to support women-led development across various sectors in India.

What exactly is reproductive autonomy?

  • The right and ability of an individual to make educated decisions about their reproductive health and choices without interference, compulsion, or discrimination is referred to as reproductive autonomy.
  • It includes the freedom to choose whether or not to have children, how many children to have, and how long to wait between pregnancies.
  • Access to comprehensive reproductive healthcare services, such as family planning methods, contraception, sexual education, prenatal care, safe abortion services, and support for reproductive health decisions, is part of reproductive autonomy.

India’s Family Planning Progress

  • India has been praised for its family planning measures, which aim to provide complete reproductive health services to every possible beneficiary.
  • Reproductive health services: Efforts have been undertaken to broaden the contraceptive basket by offering a variety of current short and long-acting reversible contraceptives, permanent methods, information, counselling, and services, including emergency contraception.
  • Maternal health advancements: India has made considerable achievements in maternal health, as seen by a large decrease in maternal mortality rates. The current rate is 97 per 100,000 live births, a decrease from 254 in 2004.
  • Gender equality: India has made strides in empowering women and girls. Since the early 2000s, the number of child marriages has been cut in half, and adolescent pregnancies have declined dramatically.
  • Access to critical services: India has seen an improvement in access to critical services such as health, education, and nutrition.
  • Longer life expectancy: In India, life expectancy at birth has increased dramatically over the years, with Indians currently living a decade longer than in the 1990s.

What are the Challenges?

  • Lack of physical autonomy: Despite recent advances, many Indian women continue to lack bodily autonomy.
  • Limited decision-making power: According to the National Family Health Survey, just 10% of women in India are able to make independent health decisions.
  • Acceptance of marital violence: According to the survey, 11% of women say that if a woman refuses to have sex with her husband, marital violence is appropriate.
  • Unplanned pregnancies: In India, about half of all pregnancies are unplanned, underlining a challenge in providing effective family planning services and education.
  • While progress has been made, there are still persistent gender discrepancies and inequities that must be addressed in order to attain full gender equality.
  • Attitudes and societal practises that perpetuate gender-based discrimination and violence continue to be a barrier to women’s empowerment.

Possibilities for India

  • Promoting Gender Equality: India has a huge chance to enhance gender equality, which has the potential to have far-reaching positive consequences on many elements of society, including economic growth, social progress, and inclusive development.
  • Economic growth potential: India may unlock enormous economic growth potential by boosting women’s labour force participation by ten percentage points. It is anticipated that this could account for more than 70% of potential GDP growth, or $770 billion more by 2025.
  • Empowering women via education and family planning can lead to the accumulation of human capital, which is critical for long-term development and economic advancement.
  • Developing women’s potential: By allowing women to fully participate in many sectors such as science, technology, agriculture, education, and healthcare, India would be able to tap into the enormous talent, ideas, and innovation that women bring to the table.
  • Laws and policies based on human rights: India has the chance to develop and execute laws and policies that empower women, girls, and marginalised people, allowing them to exercise their rights and make life-changing personal decisions.
  • Gender equality and women’s empowerment can help to inclusive economic development by ensuring equal opportunity and involvement for all segments of society.
  • Shifting population dynamics: By focusing on reproductive choices and providing individuals with reproductive autonomy, India can modify its population dynamics in a way that respects individual rights and choices while simultaneously addressing demographic issues.
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