Written by Kamala Sarup, Dr. Anand Chhaudhary
Dr. Anand Chaudhary, who stands up for women's reproductive rights, just said that to me "Women are caught in a life-and-death situation as a result of repeated pregnancies. Further social pressures have brought thousands of women into the situation. The failure to respect women's sexual and reproductive rights is a major problem in many countries. Other reasons include poverty, lack of employment opportunities, and social discrimination between son and daughter. Where the lack of political commitment to solving the problem is the root cause of continued and increased maternal mortality."
Most women are excluded from these services. They also face abuse in denying their sexual, reproductive and economic rights. In practice, legislation and access to family planning are an asset for whole families across the globe. This is important, even economically, because it helps families plan better to feed, take care of, house and educate their children. I believe that women's rights and ways of controlling their own fertility also enhance their ability to control their lives. These include the right to education and training, special economic activities and participation in political, cultural and social activities.
An MBBS graduate of the Medical Institute of the University of Tribhuvan, Dr. Chaudhary also highlighted that the dangers of repeated pregnancy and abortion can be reduced through the education of safe basic contraceptive methods. Dr Anand said that "only then can maternal mortality be reduced to some degree. Lack of family-planning programs, unintended pregnancies because of lack of preventive measures, that's got to be resolved. As we all know, rape and illegal sexual relations lead to abortion, killing the majority of women in many countries. Too many women suffer harmful abortions. Too many women still experience female genital mutilation and other harmful traditional practices. Too many men are neither conscious nor caring of their responsibility for domestic and reproductive health. The political, economic and social systems have to change. Women have the right to family planning under the law. Opposing the promotion and education of family planning for women, as well as provide contraceptives, threatened to withdraw any support should be dealt with appropriately," he said.
The right to family planning is elaborated upon in the 1979 Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. In the Program of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) in Cairo in 1994, the concepts of "reproductive rights and reproductive health" have been defined and adopted. These new languages have allowed us to better understand the problem. Dr. Anand said, "It is sad to say that most women die every day from pregnancy-related complications. In many developing countries, the majority of births occur at home without specialized care. The support is unavailable. Even in the cities, women do not know about reproductive health. Even many married women do not want another pregnancy immediately after the birth of their first child, but many lack access to family-planning arrangements. The gender divide is endemic.
"We have to teach the concept of reproduction, the dangers of repeated pregnancies, abortion and motherhood without risk of contraception and recommended from the bottom up only if the maternal death rate can be controlled and reduced to some extent.
"However, many women marry at an early age, and one of the most important values is to have many children, especially sons. A family-planning survey found that the desire to have a son among women with no children was the highest percentage of women who already had three daughters desired for a son. The right to family planning is a great example of something that has been the subject of several debates over the decades. According to the Cairo Program of Action, reproductive health implies that people are able to have a satisfying and safe sexual life and that they have the ability to reproduce and the freedom to decide if, when and how frequently to do so. It is the implied right of men and women to be informed and to have access to safe, effective, affordable and acceptable methods of family planning of their choice.
"I also believe that when reproductive-health policies and rights are implemented, even contentious issues such as abortion and teenage pregnancy become easier to address. A situation that is certainly dangerous because of respected pregnancy, poverty, illiteracy, hunger, illnesses such as AIDS and other social pressures have led millions of mothers to this situation."
In the same way, many countries have a major difference in sterilization between men and women. More women are sterilized and fewer men make vasectomy. The fact is that the operation of the vasectomy performed on the males is easier and involves fewer risks compared with the sterilization of the women.
It is frightening but true in developing countries that women die every day in the event of abortion. The fear of society, the law and the lack of knowledge lead many of these women to abort, especially if pregnancy is achieved by immoral activity.
Dr Anand said: "Even the Cairo conference called for maximizing the promotion of family-planning structures. As long as women are not in a position to choose, use and consume all family-planning services, the concept of women's global development becomes meaningless. The need to prevent unintended pregnancies, repeated pregnancies and reduction of maternal mortality should be addressed through family-planning arrangements. Even if we see in Asian countries, poverty, lack of employment opportunities, illnesses, lack of consciousness, social discrimination between son and daughter, gender-biased laws, incomplete and weak laws prevailing about trafficking in humans control, lack of political commitment for seeking problem solution are the root causes for the continuation and increasing of trafficking of women.
"Most women have no freedom of reproduction. They need children, one after the other until their husbands are satisfied. A son is a must. The consent of the husband is a must for sterilization. While most deaths of women in developing countries can be avoided with current medical knowledge, there are numerous reasons why mothers continue to die. There are cultural and social reasons that increase the risk that women will die during pregnancy.
"The right to family planning was a major preoccupation during the first United Nations World Conference on Population in 1974. The implementation of the Program of Action must take place separately in each country, and this is something where everyone can accept part of the responsibility. It is crucial that the Action Plan is 'operationalized' and translated into concrete actions in schools, organizations, political parties and all respective institutions. It is everybody's responsibility to ensure that happens. Without the activism of poor and rural women, UN decisions will not be implemented, regardless of the quality of conferences, books and paper. In the process of developing more systematic and complete strategies at the macro level, the approaches of international women's networks should be more holistic," Dr Anand said.
Dr. Chaudhary further said the family program can only succeed and last if women are financially dependent and capable of controlling what happens to their own bodies. There is a desperate need for a new global perspective on women's rights and maternal-death crises. To be successful, family-planning programs need to integrate other economic and education initiatives for women. Women's plight contributes to their vulnerability by limiting access to the means and resources they need to protect themselves, such as knowledge, education and health services.