Over two days, activists and advocates gathered to discuss some of the most pressing reproductive rights issues in India. Activist presented on a wide range of topics ranging from child marriage to sexual health education to female sterilization all with the aim to determine how these reproductive rights violations can be advanced through public interest interventions. Our purpose was to bring grassroots level activists, policy experts, and advocates together to bridge the gap between activists in the field and advocates in the courtroom. In this way, together, we can promote reproductive rights as human rights.
Reproductive rights violations in India are fomented and compounded by cultural, religious, and societal contexts. Any approach to address reproductive rights violations in India must be committed, crosscutting, and collaborative. There is no silver bullet to right these wrongs, just like there is also no panacean, hierarchical, or methodical method of bringing an end to them either. Instead, a comprehensive, multi-faceted approach to advocacy is necessary. This approach must embrace field level activism and litigation, policy advocacy and demonstrations; all efforts undertaken as pieces of a bigger, cohesive, picture to eradicate the ills of rampant reproductive rights violations.
Reproductive Rights in India
The 1994 Cairo International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) defines reproductive rights as follows:
Reproductive Rights rest on the recognition of the basic right of all couples and individuals to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing and timing of their children and to have the information and means to do so, and the right to attain the highest standard of sexual and reproductive health. They also include the right of all to make decisions concerning reproduction free of discrimination, coercion and violence.
In India today, women young and old are victims of one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world, coercive population control policies, forced sterilization, a lack of comprehensive sexual health education, limited information regarding contraception, inadequate access to contraception, and persistent child marriages. All of these issues continue compromising the lives of millions of women, female adolescents, and girl children in violation of their reproductive rights.