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From Loans To Sex Workers To Providing Sanitary Napkins, The NHRC Has Issued An Advisory On How To Protect Women’s Rights During The Pandemic

October 09, 2020 | by Mitali Shah

I think we can all agree that 2020 has been a lousy year. I mean, I don’t remember the last time I switched on the news and heard the anchors not yelling at each other or talking about something worthwhile. Why aren’t they addressing the fact that the safety of women in our country has dropped to a negligible level? Or that instances of domestic violence have increased? Shouldn’t we also talk about how the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has given our government a set of recommendations to better protect women’s rights during this pandemic? I think it’s a brilliant initiative considering our government could use a little help on that front. Let’s talk about that a little, shall we? 

In a statement on Thursday, the NHRC said it had formed a committee of experts to look into the impact of the pandemic on human rights. This led to advisories on various topics including women’s rights. And we all know how badly we need that. 

Talking about the National Commission of Women’s findings that domestic violence has increased more than two-fold between February to May, the NHRC recommended a “coordinated and inter-ministerial health system response” to counter this gender-based violence and ensuring the proper enforcement of laws. 

Some of the recommendations that they gave to the government include- setting up a task force on gender-based violence to coordinate and monitor support and prevention services, providing free contraception and giving moratoriums for all loans taken by women workers. This will help in protecting women’s rights during the pandemic. 

The statement stated, “Moratorium may be given on all loans taken by women workers, including sex workers, from banks and other financial institutions. In case of harassment by lenders, due cognizance and appropriate action by concerned authorities may be taken.” 

This advisory was sent to various Central Ministries, including the Women and Child Development, Health and Family Welfare and Home Affairs Ministries, and all States and Union Territories. And it also included recommendations on sexual and reproductive rights. 

It read, “Make provisions for free contraceptives and other essential materials for safe delivery and safe abortion at public health facilities.” The NHRC also recommended state governments to recognize sex workers as informal workers so that they are able to access various facilities. 

Moving onto to menstrual health, the advisory said that the government must declare sanitary napkins and iron-folic acid supplements as essential items. They must also ensure all women are able to access these products and that there is a continuous supply through the Rajiv Gandhi Scheme for Empowerment of Adolescent Girls and Rashtriya Kishor Swasthya Karyakram. 

Also Read: 9.1% Women And Girls Are Going To Get Poorer In 2021 Due To The Pandemic, According To The UN. Let That Sink In

The advisory also stated that said that all pregnant women prisoners should be released and for those inside jails, better washrooms and gender-sensitive health services should be provided. 

Wow. If the central and state governments follow through on these recommendations, we could have some change on our hands. The statement has said that the government must implement these recommendations and submit a report. Did the NHRC just give our government homework? Sorry, bad joke. 

The NHRC recommendations have touched upon every grievance that has made the lives of hundreds of women difficult. From domestic violence to menstrual health and from moratoriums on loans to recognition for sex workers. These recommendations are on point and very relevant. 

I really hope that the government takes these recommendations into consideration and implements them. It could really have a positive impact on our society.


Mitali Shah

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