Members of the Advocating Reproductive Choices (ARC) coalition and other activists have welcomed the Supreme Court’s recent verdict on closure of sterilisation camps across the country. At the Population Foundation of India, Poonam Muttreja, Executive Director has said the SC judgment was a landmark one. Providing quality services to and upholding the dignity of women will now be placed strongly on the national agenda. At the state and district levels, the quality consciousness and assurance have not been part of the health system in general.
This judgment from the Supreme Court will help in ensuring that at the state and district levels as well, the judgment is taken seriously. This will help strengthen the implementation and monitoring of the family planning programme.
Dr Sanjay Pandey, convener, on behalf of ARC, said the judgement has emphasised all advocacy recommendations — expanding choice, increasing budgets and placing family planning as a sexual and reproductive health issue and right — that the ARC members had made through the NGO report on the incident of sterilisation deaths at Bilaspur.
The coalition supports the comprehensive management approach that is being put in to re-establish the fact that people and their choices matter. Steps in this direction have already taken place, and in December 2014, the ministry of health and family welfare had issued a directive to all principal secretaries for health at the state level to adhere to the guidelines and protocols to deliver quality family planning services.
The Supreme Court judgment has encouraged the ministry of health and family welfare, to promote gender equity in the family-planning programmes pointing towards the introduction and availability of a greater number of contraceptive choices for both men and women and greater participation of civil society organisations in delivering quality family-planning services.
It has made clear that family planning is not just about women but also about men and the need for their increased involvement in the family planning. It has also highlighted that the sterilisation programme cannot be primarily targeted towards women but must also actively include men.
Looking at the bigger picture, the judgement made a strong case for the Union of India to address itself to gender equity, directing it to ensure strict adherence to the guidelines and standard operating procedures that it has issued in various manuals.
It underlined that the sterilisation programme is not only a public health issue but a national campaign for population control and family planning, Muttreja said.