Women still unable to enjoy reproductive health rights

Kathmandu, December 21

It has already been four months since the Parliament passed Safe Motherhood and Reproductive Health Rights Act, but due to lack of effective implementation many women across the country are not able to enjoy these rights.

The act has legalised abortion and it has the provision for free abortion service at all public health facilities. This law makes abortion legal for all cases up to 12 weeks’ of gestation  on request, up to 28 weeks’ gestation in cases of rape or incest, and at  any time if the pregnancy poses a danger to the woman’s life, or  physical or mental health, or in case of foetal abnormality.

According to Sabin Shrestha, due to delay in implementation, many women have been facing problems. He also said that the act contradicted with the Criminal Code.  Abortion is a fundamental right, but it has described as a punishable crime in the Criminal Code,” said Shrestha. “Only 42 per cent women visit government-authorised hospitals for safe abortion while remaining 58 per cent choose unsafe abortion.”

Speaking at National level public hearing on reproductive health issues organised today by National Women Commission,  Shrestha said that there were many women in the rural areas of the country, who could not enjoy reproductive health rights due to poor financial condition, lack of health facilitates and geographical remoteness.

One of the participants Sarita Lamichanne, who is also visually impaired, shared that due to lack of disable-friendly hospital in the country, women with disability had to face lots of problems.

She said, “One of my friends, who cannot hear, was pregnant. She went to a doctor for abortion but due to language barrier, the doctor provided her Iron pills. She was unaware of that and had to suffer without her own mistake.”

Puskar Raj Nepal, joint secretary of law section at the Ministry of Health and Population, said the ministry was planning to effectively implement the law. “We have already completed first phase discussion with different stakeholders and we have also formed a committee to formulate the rules and regulation to implement the law,” he added.