Member of Parliament, Dr. Shashi Tharoor, recently shared information on his social media about a Women’s Sexual, Reproductive and Menstrual Rights Bill 2018 that he has introduced in the Lok Sabha.
The Women’s Sexual, Reproductive & Menstrual Rights Bill that I introduced in the Lok Sabha emphasises the agency of a woman in her sexual & reproductive rights & guarantees menstrual equity for all women. – In addition to criminalizing marital rape, the bill prohibits the use of unrelated facts such as a woman’s ethnicity, education, profession, clothing preference, social circle, personal opinion, past sexual conduct or any other related grounds in presuming her sexual consent. – The Bill mandates access to sanitary pads free of cost in govt schools and public offices for all women, acknowledging that menstruation is an essential involuntary bodily function & that questioning the absence of sanitary pads must become a societal norm and not a stigma. – My Bill grants a woman, irrespective of marital status, right to terminate pregnancy except when it may lead to female foeticide or when the foetus becomes viable. A child survivor of rape is granted the absolute right to terminate pregnancy unless there is a risk to her life. – The Bill acknowledges the inaccessibility of resources in rural areas & the social stigma surrounding termination of pregnancy. It includes provisions for easier termination and protection of privacy of women who may terminate pregnancy or intend to do it.
Recently, Dr. Tharoor was embroiled in a controversy wherein his remark about women of menstruating age being allowed in Sabarimala temple invited a lot of flak from the internet.
This is a very disappointing stance Mr Tharoor. In the past there have been instances when women of all age groups were allowed. We must honour SC judgement. #Sabarimala— arvind (@arvind029) January 3, 2019
However, he has now shared information about the Women’s Sexual, Reproductive & Menstrual Rights Bill, and it appears that the bill actually addresses multiple issues that we, as women, have been fighting for.
For starters, the bill focuses on women’s sexual rights, primarily, criminalizing marital rape and not holding ‘unrelated facts’ like a woman’s dress, ethnicity etc. as a presumption of sexual consent.
The Exception 2 to Section 375 states that sexual intercourse between a man and wife is not considered as rape. The bill proposes the deletion of the same.
The current bill also draws attention to removing the stigma around menstruation and making efforts (such as the ready availability of sanitary pads) to treat menstruation as a normal bodily process.
Lastly, the bill grants women the right to their own reproductive capabilities, as amendments to the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act 1971.
Simply put, the bill proposes that women be allowed the choice to terminate pregnancies, irrespective of their marital status.
Currently, the bill has been proposed in the Lok Sabha. If passed, the bill will go a long way in granting women the requisite equity and helping create an environment where women have (much needed) legal rights over their own bodily functions.
All images are from the Instagram account of Shashi Tharoor.