Health Watch
  • May 28th has been celebrated as International Day of Action for Women's Health since 30 years.
  • It is a platform to emphasize on women's health and advocate reproductive and sexual rights of women.
  • The theme for 2016 is 'Our Health, Our Rights, Our Lives!' and calls for the end of violence against women in all forms.
In May 1987, during the meeting of International Women's Health, it was proposed to celebrate 28th May as International Day of Action for Women's Health every year. Since then, it has been a platform to celebrate the achievements in the field of women's health and also remind government and private bodies of their role in the promotion of women's human rights. The success of the campaign can be gauged from the fact that it is recognized by various government bodies and agencies around the globe.
International Day of Action for Women's Health-28th May
International Day of Action for Women's Health-28th May

On 1st January 2016, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of Agenda 2030 came into force which will guide nations in ending gender inequality, poverty and tackle climate change over the next 15 years. Women empowerment and health have also received focus in the SDGs, yet an important aspect remains to be acknowledged - institutional violence against women.

This year, sensing a little change in the status of women regarding reproductive health and rights, the Women's Global Network for Reproductive Rights (WGNRR) is planning a re-launch of the campaign and call for an end to violence in all forms against women.

What is institutional violence?

Institutional violence, or violence inflicted by the State, is said to exist when women are not allowed access to sexual and reproductive health services. Owing to the complex nature of this violence, it is often ignored, though widely being practiced.

Examples of institutional violence

The following are the common examples of institutional violence resulting from violation of a woman's right to reproductive health:
  • Denial of the Right to Access Safe and Legal Abortion Services. Not allowing access to women to safe and legal abortion services by criminalization or prohibition of abortion is an infringement of the human rights of a woman. The decision to bear a child should solely lie with the woman and the one who wishes not to continue with a pregnancy must have the right to terminate it safely.

    Denying the right is a form of gender discrimination and the refusal of human right to life and health. Even in the present day, the right is limited in nature in over 80 countries while 7 countries have a complete ban on abortion even in the case of rape. The stigma and burden of an unwanted pregnancy and practice of unsafe abortions are the ill-effects of the denial. Women are even jailed for the violation in some nations, adding to the injustice.
  • Forced Sterilization. Involuntary, forced or coercive forms of sterilization are acts of cruelty and go against medical ethics. They are still being practiced in various parts of the world on women living with HIV, physical or mental disability and those belonging to ethnic minorities. In some countries, coercive sterilization with the offer of financial or other incentives is practiced as a means of population control or eugenics.
  • Obstetric Violence. It is a combination of gender discrimination and institutional violence which occurs in both government and private healthcare settings when a woman is denied access to treatment, not offered the treatment of her choice, coerced into unnecessary medication/procedures or subjected to inhuman or rude behavior during obstetric care. This is usually seen due to discrimination  by race, economic background, HIV status or a diverse sexual orientation.
  • Denial of Access to Emergency Contraception. A startling 80 million unwanted pregnancies occur each year. 45 million of these are terminated, 49% of them through unsafe or illegal means which results in the death of almost 47000 women due to complications. Despite these facts, women in many countries and areas still do not have access to emergency contraception due to restrictions imposed by the State. This causes unwanted pregnancies and risks the health of women. This is especially seen in sex workers, young girls, migrants, and women living in conflicted areas.
28th May commemorates 30 years of struggle and activism for women rights and health. Through the campaign, WGNRR wants to remind government bodies and international organizations that women empowerment and gender inequality is a distant goal unless women across the globe have access to sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR). Thus, the theme this year is 'Our Health, Our Rights, Our Lives!'

The members and partners of WGNRR shall work in various areas of the world and translate the awareness material to local languages to spread awareness on the issue that 'Women's Health Matters' and women everywhere, without any discrimination, must be allowed:
  • Empowered and respected choices.
  • Recognized needs and realized rights.
References :
  1. International Day of Action for Women's Health, Women's Rights Defenders
  2. May 28 International Day of Action for Women's Health
Source: Medindia

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