DAILY EDITORIAL ANALYSIS
(Source: The Hindu, Indian Express, The Economic Times, PIB, etc.)
(8 July 2021)
GS PAPER I EDITORIAL
Challenging negative social norms
Why in News
- India has entered a demographic sweet spot that will continue for another two to three decades.
- Half of India’s population is under the age of 29, implying that a greater proportion of young people will drive India’s economic growth and social progress.
- So, they must not only be healthy, knowledgeable and skilled but must also be provided with the rights and choices to develop to their fullest potential, including, and especially, sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR).
- In looking at how to improve sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) in populations, the Guttmacher–Lancet Commission created a comprehensive definition of SRHR that incorporates a broader variety of challenges.
- These include SRHR as well as issues such as violence, stigma, and respect for bodily autonomy, all of which have a significant impact on people’s psychological, emotional, and social well-being.
- India’s population growth is now stabilising. The Total Fertility Rate (TFR) is at 2.2 children which will soon reach replacement level (2.1).
- One of the biggest challenges in India is to meet the requirements of the next generation is changing social norms.
- For example, India’s population stabilisation policy must be altered to account for women’s and girls’ rights.
- Women must have a greater say in choosing their family size. The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed flaws in healthcare systems which resulting in significant gaps and obstacles in the provision of sexual and reproductive health information and services (SRH).
- Even before the pandemic, widespread unfavourable social norms, health-care system hurdles, and gender disparities hampered universal access to SRHR, as envisioned in the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development’s Programme of Action (ICPD).
- On World Population Day 2021, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) India recognises that, even if health systems are understandably strained, the provision of these services cannot wait.
- India has made substantial gains in SRH indicators in the last two decades which improved rates of institutional delivery and a decrease in the maternal mortality ratio (MMR) from 327 per 100,000 live births in 1999-2001 to 113 per 100,000 live births in 2016-18 have resulted from progressive maternal health initiatives.
- There have also been significant shifts in family planning in the past decade, and data from the National Health Family Survey 5 for the year 201920 (NFHS5) show how contraceptive prevalence has improved in most States.
- The present government has made some efforts to disrupt old social conventions, with programmes such as Beti Bachao Beti Padhao (BBBP), and has emphasised that investments in social issues must go hand in hand with economic success.
- All sections of society must embrace this call for positive change, each doing their part, from the individual to the institution level.
- The UNFPA is keen to take India’s success models and strengthen the South-South Collaboration further. The UNFPA is eager to build on India’s successes and strengthen South-South cooperation.
- There are many challenges on the path to 2030, the goalpost for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
- Two million adolescent girls (1519 years) each year had a pregnancy, and of these, nearly 63% were unwanted or unintended (Guttmacher Institute, 2021).
- These points to inadequate information and access to SRH services for this age group. In girls aged 1519 years, 22.2% had an unmet need for contraception, according to NFHS4.
- Girls are still marrying too young — 26.8% of women aged 2024 years are married before they turn 18, often having their first child within the first year of marriage. Far too many girls and women face gender-based violence and harmful practices that are socially sanctioned.
- All of these practices are rooted in social norms, beliefs and practices that deny women their bodily autonomy.
- India has slipped 28 places to rank 140th among 156 countries, becoming the third worst performer in South Asia in the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Global Gender Gap Report (2021).
- Time to achieve the ambitious targets of the SDGs is running out. India must hence choose its priorities carefully.
- Our analysis seems to suggest that placing youth, women and girls at the centre of policymaking and services could trigger a positive ripple effect.
- If young people, and adolescent girls in particular, have access to education, relevant skills, information and services to make healthy choices, including related to SRH, are empowered to exercise their rights, and have access to opportunities for employment, then India will be on a clear path to achieve its goals.
- What research and practical experience show is that when women can make informed choices about their sexual and reproductive health, and when they have access to services to support their choices, societies are healthier and more productive.
- A woman who has control over her body gains not only in terms of autonomy but also through advances in health, education, income and safety. She is more likely to thrive, and so is her family. The UNFPA calls upon stakeholders to help build a new set of social norms to drive this mission.