FPA INDIA FOR MENSTRUAL HYGIENE – In context of the recent GST exemption on sanitary napkins.

The Goods and Services Tax (GST) is an indirect tax that was introduced in India in 2017, in order to replace multiple indirect taxes in the country. This tax was however, levied on sanitary napkins as well. GST of up to 12% was to be paid by the consumer on the purchase of sanitary napkins. This made the most basic product essential for maintaining menstrual hygiene, even more difficult to afford.

In a country like India, many women and girls still resort to using unhygienic methods to manage menstruation, because they are not able to afford or access sanitary napkins, or are still not aware of the benefits and importance of using them. In such a scenario, the entry of GST was only precarious.

However, after multiple efforts by various organisations and activists, the GST levied on sanitary napkins was exempted (from 12% to 0%). This decision was announced in parliament on Saturday, July 21, 2018. Family Planning Association of India (FPA India) welcomes this much-needed change. Access to sanitary napkins, and other health and hygiene facilities is the human right of every girl and woman, and it is necessary to ensure that they are empowered to exercise their rights.

FPA India has been working to empower young girls and women with their Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR), especially awareness and practices for menstrual health and personal hygiene management. Besides, training programmes and sensitisation workshops are conducted for teachers, parents, counsellors, peer educators, and even boys and men. FPA India has been engaging young people for more than five decades to empower them with information on SRHR. Some of them have even become change agents and volunteer to support other adolescents.

One of the recent case studies of FPA India includes an intervention project funded by a renowned organisation under their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), in order to create an income generation activity of manufacturing low-cost sanitary napkins and ensure menstrual hygiene for women. As per the plan, a sanitary napkin manufacturing machine was purchased and handed over to a Self Help Group (SHG) in a remote village in Gujarat, which was selected in consultation with the CSR team. Seven women from this SHG were trained in preparation of sanitary napkins and would manage and sell them at a nominal cost to women and girls from the village. Feedback received from the community was positive and encouraging. This project turned into a successful initiative to ensure menstrual health and hygiene for women and girls and empower them economically.

Similarly, many initiatives to distribute low-cost, affordable sanitary napkins to girls and women, have been undertaken by FPA India. Information and counselling on menstrual health and hygiene are essential components of the Adolescent Education Programme Plus (AEP+) conducted for in and out-of-school adolescents. This programme provides Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) to make them aware of their sexual and reproductive health and rights. Local Community Service Organisation (CSO) were also engaged as partners in other such initiatives.

FPA India believes that poor menstrual health and hygiene not only has an impact on girls’ or women’s physical health, but also on their socio-psychological health. Many a times girls tend to drop-out of school due to lack of facilities for menstrual hygiene, or due to unaffordability of sanitary napkins and hence the fear of staining in school. In , FPA India started an initiative, ‘Let’s Get Girls Back To School’ as a part of the TATA Mumbai Marathon, 2018, wherein they raised funds to ensure that adolescent girls were empowered with the following – low-cost, affordable sanitary napkins, iron supplements to prevent anaemia, Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE), and life-skill training to help them (school drop-outs) earn a living. An amount of INR 1080/- was calculated to provide these to one girl for an entire year. This initiative received an overwhelming response from individual and corporate donors who supported the initiative to empower young girls make their sexual and reproductive health choices.

FPA India has been and will keep undertaking such initiatives to empower young girls and women with adequate information and affordable products to maintain their menstrual health and hygiene, leading to their physical and psychosocial well-being. The exemption of GST on sanitary napkins should be utilised as a great opportunity to empower girls and women and increase their access to menstrual hygiene facilities.

 

(Written and published by Family Planning Association of India)

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Use Sanitary Napkins and stay away from infections!

Ajay Goyal

FPA India Agra branch conducts Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) sessions for school-going girls and for women at various occasions, through which they are made aware about the use of sanitary napkins during menstruation.

However, in a lot of remote villages, many girls and women have not been using sanitary napkins due to a lack of adequate information. In addition to this, poor girls and women use dirty cloth and other unhygienic methods to manage their menstruation since they cannot afford to buy sanitary napkins. This may cause various infections. FPA India Agra branch has played a significant role in creating awareness among girls and women about menstrual health and hygiene

The recent exemption of GST on sanitary napkins is a great initiative. With sanitary napkins available at affordable prices, more and more poor women and girls will be able to use them. The day is not far when all women and girls in our country will start using sanitary napkins during their periods, to maintain menstrual health and hygiene.

 

AJAY GOYAL

YOUTH VOLUNTEER,

FPA INDIA, AGRA.

Talking about Menstruation with FPA India.

Menstruation is a natural process, but still there is stigma associated with it. Using sanitary napkins is considered a private affair, due to which asking for money to purchase them brings with it some hesitation. However, after sensitisation of parents and teachers by FPA India, we can comfortably have conversations around periods and sanitary napkins, or ask for money to buy the same.  Also, FPA India helps make girls like us aware of correct knowledge about their periods. During these meetings, teachers also feel confident to speak up and provide information on the topic. These sessions have even led to informing schools to allot funds for sanitary supplies. FPA India also raised funds through the “Let’s get back girls to school” campaign in the Tata Mumbai Marathon, 2018, to empower young girls with sanitary napkins and information on menstrual health and hygiene. FPA India also sensitises young boys on menstruation to de-stigmatise this topic and create a stigma-free environment. It is my opinion, that exemption from GST will not only help women and girls afford sanitary napkins, but will also be a campaign contributing significantly to de-stigmatising menstruation. I congratulate FPA India and wish them all the luck in their initiative to empower young girls and women with information on menstrual hygiene and affordable sanitary napkins.

 

Madhushree Anishettar,

Age 21,

Student from Dharwad.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS (FAQs) ON FAMILY PLANNING.

Family Planning is an essential component of Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR). As per the World Health Organisation (WHO), Access to safe, voluntary family planning is a human right. Family planning is central to gender equality and women’s empowerment.’ To enable as many people as possible to access their right to opt for Family Planning methods, Family Planning Association of India (FPA India) answers a few Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs).

If you wish to ask some questions, feel free to leave them in the comments section below.

[Source for answers: Education in Human Sexuality – A Sourcebook for Educators, Third Edition. By Late. Ms. Dhun Panthaki.
AND
Family Planning: A Global Handbook for Providers, 2018 Edition.]

FAQs and Responses:

1. What is Family Planning?

Answer: Family planning is a right of all people to determine whether and when they have children, how many, and with whom. It allows people to attain their desired number of children and determine the spacing of pregnancies. Family Planning is a broad concept and goes beyond merely ‘avoiding having children’. It includes the following:

  • Regulating and spacing childbirths
  • Choosing suitable methods of contraception
  • Helping childless couples to conceive
  • Counselling parents and would-be parents

 

2. What are the advantages of family planning?

Answer: Family planning is achieved through the use of contraceptive methods and the treatment of infertility. It aims at improving the quality of life by regulating the family size so that the couple can have a child when they are physically, emotionally, and even economically ready to have one, if they wish to. It is important to ensure that the offspring also gets the necessary time and resources from the parents, where parents are able to afford to raise the children and give them adequate nutrition and education. Planning a family can ensure that all the members in it have adequate time, energy, and resources.

With a minimum gap of two years kept between consecutive pregnancies, the mother gets a time to recover the strength after the first pregnancy, healthier babies with better immunity, both parents find time for each other to strengthen their relationship and time to plan for and ensure that the next child gets the required resources as well.

 

3. How effective are the different methods of contraception and which is the best method?

Answer: Modern methods of contraception are essential to ensure sexual health and well-being. A contraceptive method is a device or drug used to prevent conception and pregnancy. Using modern methods of contraception can ensure more chances of avoiding pregnancy, as compared to traditional/natural methods. HIV/STIs can be prevented with the use of condoms.

The function of Modern Methods of Contraception:

  • Prevent ovulation (formation of egg) in the female body
  • Prevent sperms from meeting with or fertilising the egg
  • Preventing fertilised eggs from settling in the lining of the uterus

How effective they are, when used correctly and consistently:

  • Barrier methods such as male or female condoms – 95%
  • Combined Oral Contraceptives (COC) – almost 100%
  • Progestogen-Only Pills (POP)/ Mini-pill – 99%
  • Injectable contraceptives – 97-99%
  • Combined Patch – 92-99%
  • Intrauterine Devices (IUDs) – 96-99%
  • Implants – 99.9%
  • Permanent methods (Vasectomy and Tubectomy) – 98-99.9%

 

4. What are benefits/risks of oral contraceptives?

Answer: For Combine Oral Contraceptives (COC) / Progestogen-Only Pills (POP) – A woman can start taking these as per the doctor’s prescription if she is certain that she is not pregnant.

Benefits:

  • They are easy and convenient to use
  • Does not interfere with sex
  • Very effective if taken regularly
  • Monthly menstrual cycles are regular, with reduced bleeding and pain
  • Can be discontinued when a pregnancy is desired
  • While POPs can be taken whilst breastfeeding, it is advisable to not take COCs during the breastfeeding phase

Risks:

  • May not work as effectively if not taken daily
  • Rare cases of slight headache, giddiness, nausea initially
  • Does not protect against HIV and other STIs

 

5. Will using oral contraceptives have an effect on my chances of conceiving in the future?

Answer: When Oral Contraceptive (OC) Pills are taken daily as prescribed by a qualified medical practitioner, the woman does not tend to conceive. Women who stop using OC pills can become pregnant quickly as possible. The day taking OC pill is stopped or is delayed by more than 12 hours, the woman’s chances of conceiving go back to normal.

 

6. Is it alright for unmarried women to use IUDs?

Answer: Intrauterine Devices (IUDs) are safe and suitable for women of any age (including adolescents and women over 40 years of age), women who have just had an abortion or miscarriage, breastfeeding women, women doing hard physical labour, women who have had children and those who have not, women having vaginal infections, Pelvic Inflammatory Diseases (PID), or anaemia. IUDs are very effective and private (nobody can tell if someone is using it). IUDs have no further costs once inserted and the user is not required to do anything after insertion.

 

7. Which is the best family planning method for an HIV/AIDS infected individual?

Answer: Use of condoms is best advised for safe sex, so to prevent the transfer of HIV/AIDS or Sexually Transmitted Infections  (STIs). Other family planning methods could be used for preventing a pregnancy, only after appropriate consultation from and counselling by a certified medical doctor. The method will also highly depend upon the severity of the virus and its implicating infections.

 

Family planning is a human right and anyone can access it. Access to high-quality, affordable sexual and reproductive health services and information, including a full range of contraceptive methods, is fundamental to realising the rights and well-being of women and girls, men and boys. FPA India gives you an opportunity to access Sexual and Reproductive Health (SRH) care, including Family Planning.

 

If you’ve got questions, leave them in the comments below so that we can answer them, too!

 

Positive Approaches to Adolescents and Sexuality Education: A Case for Expanding Regional Vocabularies

(Article by Ms. Isha Bhallamudi, Mumbai. Cover Photo: FPA India, Rajkot)

Adolescence is a transition time between childhood and adulthood. But are we ready to equip adolescents to handle this transition successfully? One of the many things adolescents discover during this time is their emerging sexuality, and a healthy curiosity in sex and sexuality at this age is absolutely normal. Early adolescence is a good time to impart crucial information that will help young people understand the need to avoid risky behaviour and make safe decisions. But are we prepared to be the responsible ones, and start having adult discussions with adolescents?

There is an intense stigma about sex in Indian society. Young people frequently crib that before marriage they are expected to be totally clueless and naive about sex, and after marriage they are socially pressured to have non-stop sex and prove it by having more and more children. This double standard is both unreasonable and dangerous. Yet it is highly prevalent.

Adolescents are all the more curious about sex because it is made to seem like such a taboo topic. Normally and socially it is not possible to ask questions about it or talk about it openly. When faced with a reactions of distrust, shame, and fear to natural curiosity, where do you think they will go? They may approach friends (who may have half-baked knowledge themselves), online sources (which may or may not be accurate), or worse, pornography (which perpetuates violent and misogynistic perceptions of sex). You can probably guess the effect this can have on young people’s perceptions of sex, reproductive health and healthy relationships! Their explorations may end up being severely misinformed and place adolescents in real danger: of emotional abuse, STDs, unwanted pregnancies, and physical or sexual abuse. Additionally, in the absence of adequate information, they may be vulnerable to sexual abuse, violence and unwanted sexual advances.

So, we see that keeping adolescents unaware and absent from any discussion about sex and reproductive health can actively harm them and increase their vulnerability to harmful consequences of sexual exploration. But what is the way out? Instead of this negative approach, we need to encourage adolescents to discuss these topics with healthcare providers, parents, and reliable online sources. Positive approaches to sex education involve giving adolescents awareness, information, and safety strategies. Such approaches directly equip adolescents with the tools to protect themselves instead of magnifying their vulnerability to risk. Studies have consistently shown that when adolescents are provided with sex education and contraception, their rates of unwanted pregnancies and unsafe sex tend to fall.

In India, it can be very difficult for adolescents to find an open, reliable and non-judgmental space to access information about sex and sexuality. This is something that needs to change. Let us talk specifically about the home. Parents and adolescents find it incredibly difficult to open up honest and easy lines of communication about anything to do with this taboo topic.

There are many barriers which make these conversations difficult at home. One, parents are socialised to believe that sex before marriage is strictly taboo. They also fear that talking about sexual health will encourage more risky behaviour, rather than more responsible behaviour, in their children. They may find it impossible to accept adolescents and young people as sexual beings. At the same time, there is an even greater panic if adolescents are not sexual in the “correct”, socially mandated ways; for example, if they are asexual or homosexual. On their end, adolescents fear judgment, shame and punishment from their parents and society. These are only some of the barriers at play.

All these reasons have been discussed a lot in research, media, and policy. But there is one more, simple but rather insidious reason which is also contributing to this problem along with all the others above. This is the problem of vocabulary. Think of your mother tongue. What are the words for ‘sex’, ‘vagina’, ‘penis’, ‘foreplay’, ‘breasts’, etc.? Aren’t these words loaded with very heavy vulgar, misogynistic connotations? The English words above may sound appropriately clinical. Yet translate them into regional vocabulary and all you have are swear words.

Parents and adolescents cannot even begin to talk about sex if these are the only words available to them. Words loaded with shame, embarrassment, crudeness, and overt violence. Besides, the children are only yelled at if their curiosity gets them to touch their private parts.

We need to think about this: How are families supposed to talk about sex and sexual health in positive, respectful, and open ways when they don’t have the words to do it with?

There is a serious need to expand the vocabulary for talking about this most natural of human behaviours. We all need to figure out how to frame these conversations in comfortable ways within the home. In the long run, this will help keep the lines of communication open at home, increase trust between parents and adolescents, and help adolescents develop more responsible and safe behaviours. If we want to protect adolescents from the consequences of unsafe sex and risky sexual behaviour, we have to be able to talk to them about it in ways which make sense to them.

(Isha Bhallamudi is currently an independent researcher working within the intersections of gender, health, and young people in India. She has previously worked at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, where she carried out research projects for UN Women and UNICEF. She holds an MA in Development Studies from IIT Madras.)

 

[Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and under no circumstances can be regarded as reflecting the position of Family Planning Association of India (FPA India).]

 

Family Planning Association of India launches ‘Antara’ – a three-monthly progestin-only contraceptive injection.

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FPA India welcomes the introduction of three new modern, reversible contraceptives injection DMPA (Antara), Centchroman Pill (Chhaya) and Progestin Only Pill (PoP) in the National Family Planning Programme. This is indeed a step in the right direction to expand contraceptive choice and make modern contraceptives accessible and affordable to women to meet their reproductive health goals. The roll-out of these new contraceptives has been initiated in a phased manner across public health facilities in the country by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare since last year.

On the occasion of World Population Day, FPA India Mumbai Branch, in collaboration with the Public Health Department of the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai, has launched ‘Antara’ a three-monthly progestin-only contraceptive injection, at the Awabai Wadia Health Centre.

It is our endeavour to support health care providers in the public as well as private health sector in delivering high quality injectable contraceptive services so that eligible clients can choose and use contraceptives with confidence to enhance the quality of their reproductive and sexual lives.

 

About ‘Antara’

This contraceptive injection is composed of a synthetic female hormone (progestin) known as Depo Medroxy Progesterone Acetate (DMPA). Every dose of the injection contains 150 mg of DMPA as an aqueous suspension of one ml and needs to be given every three months as an intramuscular injection.

When the prescribed dosing schedule is followed, injection DMPA is considered to have a failure rate of less than one pregnancy per 100 women using the method over the first year. The effectiveness largely depends on regular and timely follow-up visits for re-injection. As commonly used, pregnancy rate is about 3 pregnancies per 100 women over a year.

Like for every other reversible, modern method of contraception, clients will be counselled about the safety, reversibility, effectiveness, dosage, repeat injection visits, side-effects and warning signs of ‘Antara’ (inj DMPA, also known as Depo-Provera) and also informed that they are free to switch to any other method any time they wish to.

‘Antara’ should be made widely available to women who need an effective contraceptive method and who may not be medically eligible to use other effective hormonal methods.Most women can safely use ‘Antara’, including women who breast-feed, as early as 6 weeks post-partum and if the woman is not breastfeeding, it can be administered within 6 weeks postpartum as well. Thus, this method of contraception can also be positioned to fulfill the unmet need for contraception by post-partum women who may be undecided yet about choosing a long term method to limit their family size or for those women who may indeed have short-term needs for an effective yet reversible, woman oriented method of contraception.

 

Supporting informed choice and voluntary decision-making

Every woman has the right to choose and use a method of contraception that is best suited to her needs and lifestyle. However it is also the duty of the service provider to screen her for medical eligibility to use that method and ensure that the method is safe for her. Women need to be educated and empowered so that they can control their fertility and have access to a wide range of contraceptives suited to their age and reproductive life stage. Careful profiling of the client and method-specific counselling cannot be emphasized more, before offering injectable contraceptives. Service providers need to be equipped with updated technical information, service delivery guidelines and job aids so that they are able to offer an informed choice of injectable contraceptives and quality services to support use.

 

The FPA India experience with Injectable DMPA

FPAI believes in and has strongly advocated for expansion in the basket of contraceptive choices in the National Family Planning Programme, so that poor and needy women are not denied of choice due to affordability issues. Injectable DMPA has been a part of the contraceptive method-mix provided through FPA India clinics for nearly two decades now, ever since this method was approved for use in India in the year 1993.

Providing injectable DMPA in the outreach during special service delivery sessions, capacity building of various cadres of service providers through technical updates with an emphasis on counselling skills, development of a comprehensive tool kit for various cadres of service providers to support informed choice of injectable contraceptives, training of providers in using the tool kit and sharing of best practices have contributed to a steady uptake of this method from FPA India service delivery points.

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EXPERIENCES OF PEER EDUCATORS IN MURHU.

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Chandmani Tuti,

Peer educator,

Murhu – Jharkhand, FPA India

I work as a peer educator in the Murhu project of Family Planning Association of India. Before working with FPA India, concepts such as abortion, contraception, copper-T, etc. were alien to me.  Yes, I had heard of ‘condom’ somewhere, but how it is used, its benefits, were unknown to me. I didn’t even know about STDs and their risks. When Family Planning Association of India came to Murhu, they explained to us about the basket of choices, women’s right to abortion, and everything associated to sexual and reproductive health and rights. Abortion, especially, was something nobody spoke about or even accessed because of the stigma associated with ‘ending a pregnancy’. All the information provided by FPA India, helped broaden my viewpoint and motivated me to join them as a peer educator. Now, I support abortion as a choice and even tell people in my community, about how it is alright to opt for abortion in case of an unwanted pregnancy. I am glad that I am getting a chance to learn so much from FPA India.

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Dolly Devi,

Peer educator,

Murhu – Jharkhand, FPA India

 I work with FPA India as a peer educator in the Khunti district of Jharkhand. Earlier, I used to consider abortion a sin and did not have much knowledge about contraception either. But, it was the information and services provided by FPA India that put an end to my superstitious beliefs. And now, I take so much pride in associating myself with FPA India and talking about its initiatives in the field of sexual and reproductive health and rights. As a peer educator, I work towards destigmatising abortion in our village, especially by educating young women and newly-weds. Every time I manage to convince someone to opt for contraception, it gives me a lot of happiness because I feel like I am helping in bringing about a change.

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Stigma around Abortion – A Rural Perspective.

I belong to a small village, Murhu, in the state of Jharkhand, India. There was a time when nobody in my village knew anything at all about Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights. Within this framework, something like Abortion, was either unknown or unspoken of. Today, I feel glad that in a society which inhibits conversations on abortion, I have a chance to share my thoughts and experiences, on the stigma related to abortion.

I remember how initially, I had heard the word ‘abortion’ but had no idea about its meaning and the procedures involved. FPA India did a 20-month-long intervention in our village, where Comprehensive Sexuality Education was provided to a total of 1,184 young people, from which 704 people were in school and 480 were in out-of-school settings. Through Comprehensive Sexuality Education sessions conducted by FPA India in our village, I received information about Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights, including those around safe abortion. It helped me understand the subject better and inspired me to join FPA India as a youth volunteer, where I even started educating my friends and community people about these issues. On speaking to many people, I realised that men think of abortion negatively. They may not have any knowledge about Sexual and Reproductive Health and needs of women but they will still consider abortion as something bad. Men may not know anything about women’s body, reproductive system, or menstrual cycle. They don’t even know what abortion is, or why women should be allowed to access abortion. Not just this, they have a bare minimum knowledge of their own body. In our village, women are not allowed to even take simple decisions of the family. How then would they be allowed to make an important choice such as abortion? This is the mindset that FPA India, along with us, the local volunteers, wants to change for good.

Safe abortion services may be difficult to find in a rural area like ours, as compared to urban areas. Hence, making sure that there is equal access to safe abortion services becomes extremely essential. I have seen in TV shows, how women from urban areas go to doctors and get an abortion done. But in our village and many other rural areas, due to the stigma around abortion, women don’t openly talk about it. And those who really need to, end up going to quacks and getting abortion done using unsafe methods. Before learning these details about abortion, my friends and I used to consider abortion a sin like the rest of our society. However, I am very grateful to FPA India for giving me an opportunity to get accurate information on abortion services. This helped clear my misconceptions and enhance my knowledge on abortion.

FPA India’s ongoing ‘Abortion Stigma’ project in Murhu has helped address the stigma related to abortion in our region. I, along with other male volunteers, talk to boys and men about abortion and help them clarify their myths and misconceptions about abortion, too. I believe that stigma related to abortion is due to the lack of knowledge and information among people. This prevents them from accessing safe services for abortion.

After the positive intervention by FPA India in our village, I can see that girls know about contraception and even opt for contraceptive pills to prevent pregnancy. FPA India not just provides counselling and sexuality education, but also has made provisions for us, villagers, to access medical services, including abortion. Also, while being educated on abortion methods, we have also been told by them that abortion is not an alternative to contraception. Contraception is very essential and in case of failure, women should be able to opt for safe abortion services. And sex-selective abortion is something we shouldn’t even think of, is what we have learnt and what we explain while working with communities. We need to educate both girls and boys about their Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) to enable them to make the right choices. There are many like me who have joined hands with FPA India in changing this deep-rooted belief about abortion, so that every woman in our village has equal access to safe abortion services.

 

Sanjeev Kumar

Youth Champion,

Murhu – Jharkhand, FPA India

Laws or Flaws?

Abortion is the termination of an unwanted pregnancy. But is it perceived so in India? Well, definitely not. In India, people perceive abortion as a ‘crime’. However, it would not be correct to say that our government and people have not taken any initiative to change this deep-rooted belief. Many campaigns and policies were launched by organisations and activists to bring about a change in the way abortion is perceived in society. But the fact is that in spite of many endeavours there is still stigma around abortion.

The MTP act of 1971, is necessary in a country like ours where unsafe abortions are rampant. However, at implementation level, there are many loopholes in the act that need to be fulfilled. The act specifically mentions that in case of contraceptive failure, a ‘married woman’ can opt for safe abortion services. But, what about the unmarried women? As a society, can we deny the fact that casual sex or pre-marital sex is a choice anyone can make? Apart from this, it also addresses abortion specifically as a surgical procedure that needs to be performed at a clinic, when in fact there are other methods (such as pills) which also help terminate pregnancies safely and may be performed even at home on adequate dosage suggested by the medical practitioner. Besides, the qualification that the MTP act mentions while defining a medical practitioner, narrows the possibility of ANMs and other experienced doctors from providing these services. Hence, many individuals and organisations including FPA India, are fighting for amendments in the MTP act for better implementation.

In the well-known case of Suchita Srivastava and Anr v/s Chandigarh Administration, a bench of three judges granted a mentally retarded 19 to 20-year-old woman, the right to terminate her pregnancy of above 20 weeks. Similarly, in July 2016, the Supreme Court (SC) allowed a 26-year-old alleged rape victim to abort her 24-week-old foetus with several abnormalities. There have been such cases from past years where the SC had has allowed to terminate pregnancies of more than twenty weeks. But, these cases were called ‘Exceptions to the rule’.

In another case in Mumbai, Haresh and Niketa Mehta knocked the door of the court for the termination of 26-week-old pregnancy as the foetus was diagnosed with the congenital heart disease. But, Bombay High Court (HC) rejected the couple’s plea by saying “medical experts had not categorically stated the child would suffer from serious handicaps”. However the pregnancy ended in a miscarriage. Was the decision of the Bombay HC right? It was in fact, a violation of the fundamental right mentioned under article 21 of the Indian Constitution which states “Right to life and liberty’’.

In the above case, the court’s decision was risking the life of the petitioner and also affecting her mental health. Setting a limit for the termination of a pregnancy of up to 20 weeks is a shackle to the liberty and freedom of the human right of women. When the MTP act was legalised, we did not have adequate facilities to diagnose any defect in the foetus. But today, we have all the facilities to detect abnormalities or terminate pregnancies between and beyond 24-26 weeks. However, the irony is that as per the law, a pregnancy can be terminated only up to 20 weeks.

A common issue raised in society is “whether a mother has a right to abortion vis-a-vis the right to life of the unborn”. However, how could a woman be forced into taking up a responsibility she is not yet ready for? If a woman does not want to continue with her pregnancy, it should be her decision and should be respected by everyone. But, sex-selective abortion is very much illegal under the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PCPNDT) Act of 1994 and should not be supported in any way.

There is a thin line in the interpretations of the MTP and the PCPNDT Acts. Moreover, there are ambiguities in the interpretation of the laws by regulating agencies. Many medical practitioners are not able to state the right reason for the abortion. In our country, many sex-selective abortions are forced upon women by their families, under the garb of ‘Unwanted Pregnancies’. At the same time, many truly unwanted pregnancies are interpreted and questioned by regulating agencies for sex-selective abortion. The PCPNDT Act, however, specifically disallows ‘sex determination’, while the MTP Act gives women some liberty to terminate an unwanted pregnancy. Hence, both these acts work in unison to give women the right to abort in case of unwanted pregnancies without sex-determination or selection. And those who do opt for sex-selection, should be rightly punished by law.

A woman should be empowered with her sexual rights and choices, both, in her interest. Healthy and safe living is the most basic Human Right and everyone is entitled to have this right. Delivering a child should be a happy experience for every mother, BUT, only when she wants it. Hence, her right to choose what to do with an unwanted pregnancy, should be protected in good faith.

 

Aditi Anand

Intern, FPA India

Giving Abortion A Thought.

Abortion is a choice available to us, for an unwanted pregnancy. In earlier times, abortion or contraceptives were not spoken about and neither were these services made available easily. This was a reason why women had no option but to continue with unwanted pregnancies, which would take a toll on their health. A woman runs the family. She has to think from a financial perspective as well. In earlier days, she wasn’t able to engage in family planning because the methods and services weren’t available to her.

In today’s times, women have started thinking about and taking care of their health and even started planning their future. Married women especially, have realised the importance of a smaller family and the need to limit the number of children. This has built a woman’s strength and will-power to take decisions such as opting for contraception or getting an abortion done for an unwanted pregnancy.

Decisions regarding abortion depend upon situations such as mental or physical health of the woman, potentional disability to the foetus, contraceptive failure, pregnancy as a result of sexual abuse, etc. However, if abortion is a result of sex-determination and the need for a male child, then it is an absolute no-no.

The reason society takes objection on abortion is the lack of awareness about safe methods of abortion. Safe abortion services are provided at FPA India’s clinics by trained service providers. We, the volunteers of FPA India, even help clear misconceptions about abortion to spread awareness. And as youth volunteers, it is our duty to speak up about abortion and try to eliminate the stigma that prevents women from accessing safe abortion services. If there is anything that the abortion process needs, it is the understanding and support of loved ones. Isn’t that something we can all provide?

 

 

Seema Kumari

Youth Champion,

Jaipur Branch, FPA India