Maternal health refers to the health of women during pregnancy, childbirth and the postpartum period. It is a key issue, as a safe and healthy pregnancy is the right of every woman. Regardless of their socio-economic background, each woman has the right to survive pregnancy and has the right to healthcare during pregnancy.
In India every year more than 1,000 women die due to pregnancy related complications and a huge number suffer injuries and other complications. Post-partum haemorrhage, anaemia and malnutrition are the most common causes of these deaths. Pregnant women are also more prone to and face major complications because of diseases like tuberculosis and malaria. Complications from delivery and unsafe abortion also lead to maternal mortality & morbidity. Ironically, these diseases are completely preventable if correct measures are taken against them.
The series of rights violation for a woman begins with non-information regarding healthcare during pregnancy and their entitlements under various government schemes. Access to healthcare remains a major barrier mainly because of the non-availability of the health centre in the vicinity and the means to reach one. Even accessing the health centre does not guarantee quality care due to lack of skilled medical staff and other facilities, and even worse is that they face violence at the hands of the hospital staff. Such inadequate and delayed obstetric care results in high rates of maternal mortality.
In LaxmiMandal v/s DeenDayalUpadhaya case, concerning maternal death the Hon’ble Justice S. Muralidhar quoted the following in his judgment:
“No woman, more so a pregnant woman should be denied facility or treatment at any stage irrespective of her social and economic background.… This is where the inalienable right to health which is so inherent in the right to life gets enforced.” The grave violations faced by the woman in this case made India the first country to hold maternal healthcare as a fundamental and constitutional right of every woman.
In India the issue of maternal health is also deeply rooted in discriminatory attitude towards women and socially vulnerable groups. It is because of the discrimination that the women have poor nutrition intake throughout their lives leaving their bodies unprepared to undergo pregnancy. Early marriage leading to early, frequent and ill-spaced pregnancies is a common phenomenon, further adding to the poor health of women. Lack of information as well access of contraceptives leads to unplanned and unwanted pregnancies, which in turn has an adverse effect on women’s health.
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