Historically, laws and policies regarding reproductive rights have failed to
acknowledge the women's approach, rather it focused on other targets like
population control which totally undermined the women's reproductive autonomy as
spousal consent was a mandatory requirement for her reproductive health
services. Even though child marriage is a punishable offence yet India accounts
the highest number of child marriages which results in 20 percent of its
contribution in global maternal deaths.
Reproductive rights of an individual include the liberties like having
reproductive health; an individual's right to plan a family without any
coercion, violence or discrimination; terminate a pregnancy; learn about sex
education in public schools and gain access to services regarding reproductive
health. Pragmatically, the courts have played a crucial role in the expansion,
promotion and protection of reproductive rights.
It is unfortunate that the violations of reproductive rights of an individual
incommensurately affect women as they have the competency to get pregnant which
fails to ensure gender equality and justice of women. The Constitution of India
perceives many rights regarding this topic as fundamental rights like right to
equality, right against discrimination mentioned in Article 14 and 15
respectively, right to life and liberty mentioned in Article 21 which is
further expanded and interpreted through jurisprudence to include freedom from
torture or ill treatment, rights to health, and privacy, to provide just and
humane conditions for work and also to provide maternity relief which is
mentioned under Article 42 that the government has an obligation to fulfil.
As the right to health or reproductive rights are not mentioned as fundamental
rights under the constitution of India, there are several decisions given by the
Supreme Court which interprets the provisions that are already mentioned. The
judgement given by justice Puttaswamy interpreted Article 21 and acknowledged
the constitutional rights of women to make reproductive choices.
A three-judge bench in the Suchita Srivastava v Chandigarh
Administration stated that the entitlement to carry pregnancy to its full
term, to give birth, and further raising the child are included under the
reproduction rights of women as they form a part to their right to dignity,
privacy and bodily integrity like freely choosing birth control methods like
going through sterilisation procedures which should be respected.
- On 24th august, 2017 a 9 judge
- On 28th august 2019 a 3 judge bench