The Punjab and Haryana high court on Friday directed the Centre and Haryana government to respond within a month to a petition alleging that the state's health policy and programmes discriminated against women by limiting information and access to modern contraceptives.
The directions came from a division bench comprising chief justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and justice Arun Palli, while disposing of a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by Rohtak based non-government organisation (NGO) Himmat Mahila Samooh.
The petitioner had accused the Haryana government of providing women limited access to reproductive healthcare facilities, inadequate and incorrect information about contraceptives in violation of the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) and Adolescent Reproductive Sexual Health (ARSH) Strategy. It was submitted that inadequacy of such facilities led to mental and physical anguish with unwanted pregnancy and increased the need for unsafe abortion.
The organisation had in November 2013 submitted a similar representation to the union ministry of health and family welfare and Haryana government, but got no response till filing the petition. The court observed: "The petitioner has sought to raise an important issue of adequate healthcare facilities for family control." It directed the Centre and Haryana government that they "must examine the issue on the basis of material set out in the petition" and "take a considered decision", and a speaking order be communicated to the petitioner within a month.
Petitioner's advocate, Veena Kumari, submitted that in a Jindal Global Law School study in 2013 in Haryana, it was revealed that nearly 86 % unmarried women did not know about modern contraceptive options. "Inadequate access to modern contraceptives... is a human rights violation, and part of the continuum of indignities women in Haryana experience from birth," said Colin Gonsalves, founder of Human Rights Law Network, which helped the NGO in legal proceedings.
The petition has sought that public health facilities be equipped with adequate stock of contraception, and counselling sessions be carried out at anganwadi centres, primary health centres and community health centres.