Bill bars divorce on grounds of reproductive health

Kathmandu, August 25

The bill on Safe Motherhood and Reproductive Health Rights, which is registered at the Parliament Secretariat, has a provision which bars anyone from filing for divorce citing reproductive health issues of the spouse.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Health Upendra Yadav had recently registered the bill in the Parliament Secretariat.

Anyone convicted of filing for divorce or expelling spouse from the house on grounds of reproductive health will be liable of one year imprisonment and fine of Rs 100,000.

Similarly, the bill has made provision for taking action against the health workers deliberately referring emergency delivery and neo-natal cases to another health institution despite the facility being available in one’s health institution. If convicted of doing so, the person faces six months imprisonment and a fine up to Rs 50,000, or both.

Former Health Secretary Dr Kiran Regmi, who was involved in preparing the preliminary draft of the bill, expressed the belief that the bill would be a milestone in improving people’s access to obstetric care. There is also a provision in the bill which prohibits coercive use of birth control pills and measures. Anyone convicted of this offence will be liable for six months imprisonment or a fine of Rs 50,000, or both.

According to the United Nations Population Fund, only 57 per cent of pregnant women deliver at health institutions in the country. The bill also proposes maternity leave of 98 days.

Moreover, additional one-month paid leave on the consultation of health professional has been proposed in special cases. The bill seeks the arrangement of a separate lactation room for a mother of child up to two years at workplace.

The bill also guarantees safe abortion right to pregnant women. The document mentions a mandatory provision for governments of all three levels to annually allocate budget and grants for safe motherhood and reproductive health programmes.

According to Secretary at the Ministry of Health and Population Pushpa Chaudhary, the bill intends to make reproductive and maternity health services safe and accessible to all the needy.