Kathmandu, July 22
Although the Parliament endorsed the Safe Motherhood and Reproductive Health Right Act, one-and-a-half-years ago, many women in the country have not been able to enjoy their rights due to lack of regulations and other by-laws.
A woman whose reproductive health rights are violated should be given appropriate compensation by the perpetrator, but this has not been possible mainly due to lack of regulations.
The act has the provision for appropriate technology and process of abortion service, but many women in the country have been deprived of this service too. The act also states that non-governmental and private health institutions meeting the standard prescribed by the Government of Nepal should provide obstetric care in a dignified manner, but this also has not been possible.
“Delay in making regulations has created confusion regarding standards,” said Purna Shrestha, regional manager of Centre for Reproductive Rights.
The act also has the provision for safe motherhood and newborn care. The act states that non-governmental and private health institutions meeting the standard set by the Government of Nepal should provide emergency obstetric and newborn care.
The health institutions providing emergency obstetric and newborn care should have separate rooms for pregnant women to rest.
The act has also not clearly defined family planning services. The act states that the service related to family planning should be provided as prescribed.
But no standards have been stated in the act. “Government standard will be mentioned in regulations,” Shrestha added.
The new act allows women to have abortion up to 12 weeks after pregnancy, but in the case of rape and incest, women are allowed to have abortion till 28 weeks of pregnancy.
The new penal code, however, allows women to have abortion after 18 weeks of pregnancy in case of rape and incest. “It is not clear which provision — the one in the penal code or SMRHRA — will be implemented. So a proper regulation should be made to handle such serious issues.
We are unclear about which act should be followed as the laws in the new penal code and SMRHRA contradict, said Sabin Shrestha, executive director of Forum for Women, Law and Development.
Though health practitioners are providing abortion services, there are possibilities of emergence of problems if complications occur or some unfortunate incident takes place during the process. Disputes are likely to occur if regulations and guidelines are not drafted on time,” said Aruna Uprety, a public health specialist.
A version of this article appears in print on July 23, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.