In a much-needed and revolutionary initiative, the Sindh Assembly has passed ‘Sindh Reproductive Healthcare Rights Bill’ last week. The bill discusses reproductive healthcare rights of men and women and taking care of complications with regards to pregnancy and childbirth. It is imperative in Pakistan’s context particularly since it is among the countries with the highest child and maternal mortality rate.
Health Minister Azra Pechuho tabled the bill and got it unanimously passed from the Sindh Assembly. The session was chaired by Deputy Speaker Rehana Leghari.
“This act gives legal status to this right because in Pakistan on average 80 women die every day because of pregnancy-related complications. This is compounded by the fact that millions of other women do not die, but suffer from complications such as fistula, sexually transmitted diseases, and infertility,” said the stated objectives and reasons of the bill.
“This legislation will promote the reproductive healthcare rights of men and women and shall redress the complications related to pregnancy and childbirth, which are among the leading causes and consequences of mortality and morbidity for women of reproductive age and reduce maternal death. Therefore, it is expedient to enact a law on the subject matter.”
For the first time, the bill talks about the reproductive health of both parents, which, despite large family sizes, remains an ignored subject in Pakistan. The bill focuses on the following three aspects:
- providing reproductive healthcare information.
- awareness regarding mental and physical health.
- the well-being of individuals and families and allows the service users to make all decisions on the basis of full, free and informed consent.
The bill also talks about parents’ responsibility and their role as an educator, by including reproductive health education in the syllabus at the secondary and higher secondary school levels, under the category of ‘life skills’.
It also recognizes that the couple will have the right to information, about when to start a family, spacing, timing, and number of children.
“All women have the right to protection from discrimination in social, domestic or employment spheres by reasons of pregnancies or motherhood as prescribed.
“All persons have a right to make independent decisions about their reproductive rights and the right to have decisions respected by others. Women are empowered for their reproductive well-being.”
With this bill, the government must provide ” quality reproductive healthcare through short- and long-term efforts comprising among others, to professionalize obstetric care, emergency obstetric and neonatal care.”
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