Tuesday, Sep 21, 2021 09:45 [IST]
Last Update: Tuesday, Sep 21, 2021 04:12 [IST]
Nearly half of all women are denied their bodily autonomy, according to data from 57 countries, UNFPA’s recent flagship report. The 2021 State of World Population report, titled My Body is My Own, marks the first time a United Nations report focuses on the power and agency of individuals to make choices about their bodies without fear, violence or coercion.
The report examines data on women’s decision-making power and on laws supportive of sexual and reproductive health and rights. Tragically, only 55 per cent of women have bodily autonomy, according to measurements of their ability to make their own decisions on issues relating to health care, contraception and whether to have sex. The report also highlights the legal, economic and social barriers to securing bodily autonomy for all. Twenty countries or territories, for example, have “marry your rapist” laws that allow perpetrators to escape punishment if they marry their victims, codifying the denial of autonomy experienced by survivors of rape. But some of the most persistent barriers to bodily autonomy involve stereotypes, assumptions and misconceptions about bodily autonomy and the rights of women and girls.
Also, its important to remember that these are pandemic times. The Covid-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on health-care systems and potentially on pregnancy outcomes, but no systematic synthesis of evidence of this effect has been undertaken. According to a Lancet survey, Global maternal and fetal outcomes have worsened during the Covid-19 pandemic, with an increase in maternal deaths, stillbirth, ruptured ectopic pregnancies, and maternal depression. Some outcomes show considerable disparity between high-resource and low-resource settings. The adverse effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on maternal and perinatal health are not limited to the morbidity and mortality caused directly by the disease itself. Nationwide lockdowns, disruption of health-care services, and fear of attending health-care facilities might also have affected the wellbeing of pregnant people and their babies.
There is an urgent need to prioritise safe, accessible, and equitable maternity care within the strategic response to this pandemic and in future health crises. Policy makers and health-care leaders must urgently investigate robust strategies for preserving safe and respectful maternity care, even during the ongoing global emergency. Our findings highlight a disproportionate impact on LMICs. Immediate action is required to avoid rolling back decades of investment in reducing mother and infant mortality in low-resource settings. There is also an unprecedented opportunity to investigate the mechanisms underlying the observed reduction in preterm birth and generate novel preventive interventions.
For a large proportion of India’s backward communities, social development programmes remain out of reach. There is an urgent need for universal and equitable access to quality health services, including family planning. Ensuring access to education, social security and health services, especially sexual and reproductive services, is key to improving birth outcomes.