Frequently Asked Questions on Reproductive Rights Initiative

What is the Reproductive Rights Initiative?

Reproductive Rights Initiative is a unit of the Socio Legal Information Centre (SLIC) registered under the Registration of Societies Act, 1860, Indian Public Trust Act, 1950 and the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act. 1976.  Reproductive Rights Initiative is a collective of lawyers and social activists who provide pro bono legal services, conducts public interest litigation and investigates violations of human rights specifically pertaining to sexual reproductive health and rights.  The initiative uses the legal system to advance human rights.

What are the priorities of Reproductive Rights Initiative?

Reproductive Rights Initiative’s priorities are to champion for women’s reproductive rights and freedom and other women’s health issues.  The Reproductive Rights Initiative works towards realization of reproductive rights as defined in the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development (1994).  The government of India through the National Population Policy 2000 has stated that the immediate objective would be to address the unmet needs of contraception, health infrastructure and health personnel as well as to provide integrated service delivery for basic reproductive and child health care; however we have a long way to go to achieve that aim.  Reproductive health issues- including HIV&AIDS are the leading cause of mortality and morbidity of women worldwide. Reproductive health issues are also an issue of gender inequality and human rights as reproductive health problems are borne disproportionately by women. The Reproductive Rights Initiative (RRI) works towards the realization of reproductive rights in India as defined in the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development (1994).  This includes the right of women to freely decide and without coercion, violence or discrimination, to have control over and make decisions concerning their own sexual reproductive health.

One of the many issues that the initiative focuses on is respectful maternity care.  Inadequate transportation, prohibitively high out of pocket expenditures, lack of awareness are frequently considered to be the most important barriers however  physical abuse, non-consented care, non-dignified care, discrimination based on patient attributes, abandonment of care and detention in facilities also are a major cause for the poor not availing government health services. 

An issue of priority which Reproductive Rights Initiative focuses on is maternal mortality.  India in order to reduce maternal mortality has introduced key interventions such as the Janani Surakhsya Yojana (JSY) to promote institutional delivery and Janani Sishu Surakhsya Karyakram (JSSK) which encompasses free maternity services for women and child.  However the poor and the marginalised are especially vulnerable as teenage marriages and pregnancies are very high. There has been a decline in MMR estimates in 2010-2012 over 2007-2009 in India as well as in some of the major states:

  • For India: 178 from 212 (a fall of about 16%)
  • In Empowered Action Group (EAG) states and Assam: 257 from 308 (a fall of about 16%)
  • Among southern states: 105 from 127 (17%)
  • In Other states: 127 from 149 (15%)

The Reproductive Rights Initiative also has been championing for the need to address women’s need for better health.  The target centric approaches that many of the states have adopted have worked to the detriment of the other basic health services. Against this backdrop, the Reproductive Rights Initiative uses the legal system to combat violations of reproductive rights, ensure implementation of reproductive rights schemes, and to demand accountability where implementation is left wanting.


What is the mandate of Reproductive Rights Initiative?

Our mandate is to ensure:

  • Accountability by bridging the gap between theoretical legal entitlements and their actual implementation;
  • Accelerate to reduce preventable maternal mortality and morbidity through court orders that will require to increase the public health care budget
  • To ensure that all women’s bodily integrity is respected and the need to consistently value the principal of bodily integrity and promote it as sacred, inviolable, inalienable and fundamental. To accomplish this, Reproductive Rights Initiative works especially with women, young people children

What does Reproductive Rights Initiative do?

Reproductive Rights Initiative promotes:

  • Rights based approach to reproductive health care throughout India.
  • Encourage dialogue and collaboration between women’s rights organisations, health groups, lawyers and judges to utilise the legal system more effectively.
  • Conduct fact-findings all around India to ascertain the situation on the ground.
  • Provide pro bono legal aid for the poor, marginalised and vulnerable whose reproductive health rights have been violated.
  • File Public Interest Litigation Cases (PILs) concerning reproductive rights to both High Courts and the Supreme Court of India, which rely on Constitutional, legislative and international human rights law provisions.
  • Organise events to promote reproductive rights issues,.
  • Conduct educational workshops and training seminars for activists to build capacity.
  • Work in conjunction with the Women’s Justice Initiative, People’s Health Rights Initiative, Dalit Rights Initiative, and the Child Rights Initiative, to ensure that Dalit, Adivasi, and adolescent girls are recognized as special-risk groups of maternal mortality and morbidity.

How does Reproductive Rights Initiative relate to its focus on reproductive health issues and gender issues?

A woman is prevented from fully pursuing her rights and entitlements as enumerated in the constitution if she is prevented from achieving personal autonomy. Empowering women to control their own reproductive capacity will lead to the end of the patriarchal view that has permeated into the psyche of India with regards to pregnancy, child birth and motherhood. For women, security of their own body is fundamental to her emotional, psychological, intellectual growth and development. Recognising and protecting a women’s bodily integrity actually supports and promotes a human rights approach by recognising the special needs of this vulnerable population.

How can I support Reproductive Rights Initiative?

Visiting our website frequently is a good way to know more about our work. Our page on Contact provides a number of ways that civil society organisations, researchers and activists can support and partner with us.  We also host interns from India as well as abroad.  These interns could either have a law background, social work background as well as social researchers.