Probed, declared pregnant, tribal women now ostracized #Vaw #WTFnews

TNN | Jun 12, 2013,

JABALPUR: A tribal panchayat has excommunicated families of nine girls from Madhya Pradesh‘s Betul district, who were found pregnant at a mass marriage event under mukhya mantri kanyadaan yojna.

The girl’s were sent away from the event after undergoing pregnancy tests on June 7. The panchayat, which is the supreme body of Korku and Gonds tribes that form 90% of the population in the region, issued the orders against the families for “bringing ignominy to the community”.

The families have been left to fend for themselves. Even local BJA MLA Geeta Ramjilal, a tribal, has refused to intervene. “In any case, once the tribesmen decide to take a particular course of action, nothing can be done by anyone. Their word is law after all,” she told TOI on Tuesday. She is careful not to upset her party’s tribal vote bank.

Sarju Markam, a panchayat member, said the order can be rescinded if the families invite the villagers for a community meal and host a “jaatmilona”, a function to restore social ties.

“The girls brought dishonour and there was a public spectacle. So penance has to be observed,” he said.

One of the girl’s fiancee said feeding a population of 1,200 is something much beyond her folks.

He said he would stand by her and “marry her the day the crisis gets over”. But he fears the wait could be too long.

As landless labourers, the family collectively earns Rs 1,000 per month and the arrival of monsoon further cuts down earning prospects. Raising the amount for the lunch at a short notice would be impossible. This could mean an uncertain future for him, his prospective bride and the child as well.

The girl, in her 20s, quietly sits at home. She has been forbidden for moving out and has been trying to ignore jeers and barbs aimed at her. Her fiance has been helping the family to find a moneylender to fund the feast.



NRHM -Removal of conditionalities for institutional deliveries underJanani Suraksha Yogana #Womenrights #Goodnews

Access the G.O. No. Z.14018/1/2012- JSY  relating to Removal of conditionalities associated with parity and minimum age of mother for institutional deliveries in High Performing States and for home deliveries in all the States/UTs under Janani Suraksha Yojana 


English: National Rural Health Mission of India




No. Z.14018/1/2012-JSY
Government of India
Ministry of Health & Family Welfare
(JSY Section)
Nirman Bhawan, New Delhi
Dated: 13.05.2013
The Mission Director-NRHM,
All States/UTs
Subject: Removal of conditionalities associated with parity and minimum age of mother
for institutional deliveries in High Performing States and for home deliveries in
all the States/UTs under Janani Suraksha Yojana-Approval of Mission Steering
Group (MSG) –in continuation of letter dated 8.5.2013 regarding
As you are aware, Janani Suraksha Yojana (JSY) is under implementation
throughout the country since 2005. The scheme encourages institutional delivery
among pregnant women by providing conditional cash assistance. In Low Performing
States, the financial assistance for institutional delivery is available to all pregnant
women regardless of age and parity who give birth in a government or private
accredited health facility. However, in High Performing States, financial assistance for
institutional delivery has only been available to women from BPL/SC/ST households,
aged 19 years or above and upto two live births for giving birth in a government or
private accredited health facility. Further, in all the States/UTs, the scheme provides Rs.
500/- to BPL women, aged 19 years or above and upto two live births, who prefer to
deliver at home.
Despite the fact that Janani Suraksha Yojana has contributed in increasing the
institutional deliveries in the public health facilities, recent evaluation conducted by
National Health Systems Resource Centre (NHSRC) and study report on Maternity
Protection in India by Ministry of Labour and Employment/International Labour
Organization noted with concern that JSY excludes a significant proportion of women by
virtue of exclusion criteria/ conditionalities of minimum age of mother and parity. These
women who are excluded include adolescents below the age of 19 years and
multiparous women who are at higher risk of maternal and perinatal outcomes.
Considering the above, a proposal to remove conditionalities associated with
minimum age of mother and parity was placed before Empowered Programme
Committee (EPC) which recommended the proposal for consideration of Mission
Steering Group (MSG) of National Rural Health Mission. The proposal has now been

approved by Hon’ble Health & Family Welfare Minister and Chairman of the Mission
Steering Group of NRHM as under:
 Removal of conditionalities associated with parity and minimum age of the
mother for institutional deliveries in the High Performing States.
 Removal of conditionalities associated with parity and minimum age of the
mother for home deliveries in all States/UTs.
In view of the recent decision approved by competent authority (mentioned
above) and the decisions of the competent authority taken at different times earlier,
comprehensive entitlements of beneficiaries covered and ASHA incentives, under
Janani Suraksha Yojana beyond 7th May 2013 are given below:




* Rs. 600/ per delivery in rural area includes Rs. 300 for antenatal component and Rs. 300 for
facilitating institutional delivery


** Rs. 400/ per delivery in urban area includes Rs. 200 for antenatal component and Rs. 200 for
facilitating institutional delivery

You are, therefore, €quesied to issue necessary instructions lo sll concem€d
field level officers lo ensu€ implementaiion of Janani Su€ksha Yojana in acmdance
with the abovo decision we.i 8.5,2013, the daie on which the decision has been
communicated (copy enclosed).
Yours sinceely,
(D.. Rak€sh Kumar)
Joint Secretary (RCH)



NRHM website at






When Rape is not Rape #Vaw #Womenrights

 Adrienne Rich`s #Rape- but the hysteria in your voice pleases him best #poem #Vaw

Majlis Team, Mumbai

Sometime around August, 2012* newspapers reported that a 14 year old girl was raped. The girl was 8 months pregnant and had been admitted to hospital. The rapist, a Muslim youth, was arrested. We decided to follow up the case and so approached the concerned hospital but were informed that the girl had been discharged. We then contacted the local police station who directed us to the girl’s  home.

Our first image of Monica was that of a very pregnant, chirpy and vivacious teenager. She was at home chatting with some friends around her own age. Her mother was away at work. Monica lives on the attic of a hutment in the fisherman’s colony, situated in one of the posh areas of South Mumbai. When we enquired about the incident she told us that Iqbal was her boyfriend and that they were to be married. According to her, there was some misunderstanding and Iqbal would be released soon. She seemed quite relaxed and oblivious of the gravity of the situation. Her only request was for us to help her meet Iqbal in the Arthur Road jail where he was lodged.

We introduced our work on socio legal support and as she grew comfortable she revealed her story. Monica’s father had abandoned them and was living with another woman in a slum nearby. Her mother worked a 12 hour shift as a private helper-nurse. Her father continued to visit their place in a drunken state. He would beat up her mother and demand money and sex from her. In her growing up years, Monica had been traumatized by these recurring incidents of violence.

Initially Monica attended a local municipal school but after school hours she had to fend for herself till her mother returned from work. Monica couldn’t cope and so she dropped out of school. She would then spend the entire day with her friends who were also school drop outs.

Soon Monica got into a relationship with Iqbal aged 20. He lived in a nearby slum and worked as a driver earning Rs.15,000 per month. Iqbal would visit Monica at home when her mother was away at work. It was only when Monica visited a public hospital with stomach pains that she realized she was five months pregnant. She had crossed the permissible period for abortion and hence had no choice but to continue with the pregnancy.

Monica’s mother was very upset. She approached Iqbal’s family and proposed marriage. However Iqbal’s family rejected the proposal of marriage of their son to a lowly Christian girl. But Monica was confident of her relationship and convinced her mother that in due course of time Iqbal would surely marry her. Her mother had no choice but to bide time.

As her pregnancy advanced, Monica continued to suffer from acute abdominal pain. It was thus in her eighth month Monica again approached another public hospital. At the registration counter, Monica was asked routine questions about her age and marital status. On realizing that she was 14 and unmarried, the hospital, without her knowledge, contacted the local police and all hell broke loose!

When the police arrived Monica’s mother tried desperately to convince them that they were in a relationship and were to be married soon. But the doctors insisted that it was a case of statutory rape (as Monica was below the age of consent). The police and doctors compelled her to file a criminal complaint.

Iqbal was arrested. The news was splashed in local newspapers and cable networks. Iqbal was immediately sacked from his job. He was the sole earning member of his family, so the family was furious with Monica and her mother and blamed them for his misfortune.

Monica pleaded with us to help her meet Iqbal in jail.  We tried counseling her and placed various options before her. Give the baby up for abortion, pursue her studies.  We suggested her moving to a shelter so that she could distance herself from the situation and reflect and explore her options. Her mother liked the idea, but Monica was not interested. Marriage was the only reality for her. Every time there was a pause in the conversation, she kept asking whether we will help her to meet Iqbal in jail. She had even come with cooked food to take for him.   However the jail authorities informed us that only blood relatives were allowed to meet under trials. The fact that she was carrying his blood in her stomach, did not matter at this juncture!

Then started the legal rigmarole. Iqbal’s family hired an expensive lawyer. Under his advice Monica personally appeared before the judge to plead for the release of Iqbal. They promised to arrange her marriage as soon as he was released. But this strategy did not work and even bail was not granted, so Iqbal remained in judicial custody. Monica attended court on each date to have a brief interaction with Iqbal despite her advanced pregnancy and health issues, but every time the bail application was rejected, his family grew more antagonistic towards Monica.

After several bail applications were rejected, the lawyer advised Monica  to stop contacting us as they feared that being a women’s  rights organisation our only interest would be to secure a conviction. But Monica’s mother kept in touch. Somehow she felt that we could mediate between the police, the court and Iqbal’s family to secure the future of her daughter.

As the charge sheet was getting filed, Monica delivered a baby girl. The trial started four months later.  Monica came to court carrying her tiny daughter in her arms, both fully covered in a Hijab! Perhaps, she thought, this would give her a semblance of respectability within the court environment or that by accepting the cultural norms of Iqbal’s family she would gain acceptability.

The trial concluded within two hearings. There was nothing much to decide. Monica turned hostile and deposed on oath that she does not know Iqbal, that it was a case of mistaken identity by the police. Everyone cooperated – the Investigating Officer, the woman public prosecutor, the court staff, and even the judge herself! Iqbal was acquitted. We have not been able to contact Monica or her mother thereafter. We do not know whether Iqbal actually married her.

This is a case where a young girl with multiple levels of marginalization tries to find a meaningful resolution on her own terms. She is then caught in a web of state laws and its moral codes. Young girls in consensual relationships, who accidentally get caught in this legal web will have no other option but to turn hostile in court.

More recently, the situation of girls like Monica has been rendered even more precarious. The recently enacted Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 prohibits all sexual activity for children below 18, as consent of children is not recognised. It also introduced the provision of mandatory reporting, hence non reporting of sexual activity of children below the age of 18 has been now rendered an offence.

The Act aims to deal with child marriage, rape and trafficking of children and is based on the  underlying premise that a young girl is incapable of giving valid consent. However these same girl are routinely exposed to discrimination, vulnerabilities and a range of exploitations.  Women’s groups appealed to protect the interest of these children and campaigned, not to criminalise normal sexual exploration during growing up years. But in the fight with a conservative and regressive moral brigade, we lost.

When will state and civil society begin to take responsibility and address marginalities of poor young girls rather than sitting on a moral high ground, and criminalizing its consequences? What is the future that awaits these young girls?

*The names of both the survivor and the accused as well as the month in which the newspaper report appeared, have been changed to protect the identity.


Mitt Romney’s Advice for Recent Female Grads: “Get married and start having kids ” #WTFnews

AlterNet / By Kristen Gwynne

Don’t expect wealth and power, Romney warned the women of the Southern Virginia University‘s graduating class. Just get married and make lots of babies!

May 3, 2013  |

This week, Mitt Romney delivered an interesting commencement speech to the (very Mormon populated) Southern Virginia University’s graduating class. Sharing his secrets for “abundant living,” Romney urged the new grads to go out, get married, and procreate like crazy.

‘Get married,’ he said, and “Have a quiver full of kids if you can.”

Also, hurry.  Staying single until your thirties could be a big mistake. A quiver full of kids aren’t born over night.

“Some people could marry but choose to take more time, they say, for themselves. Others plan to wait until they’re well into their 30s or 40s until they think about getting married,” he said, “They’re going to miss so much of living, I’m afraid.”

Girls, forget about establishing a career before you get married or have children. Why spend your body’s prime child-bearing years working, when you could be breast-feeding on a much smaller salary?

As Romney reminds the class of Southern Virginia University, wealth is not guaranteed. Not everybod knows how to cut corners, exploit workers, and watch the profits rise. Even fewer are born into the power necessary to accumulate wealth in America. Anybody biologically capable, however, can make a quiver full of babies.

“I don’t think God cares whether you get rich,” he warned the crowd. “I don’t think he hopes that your business will make a huge profit. I know a lot of religious people who think God will intervene to make their investments grow. Or he’ll get them a promotion. To make their business a success. But life on this earth is about learning to live in a place where God does not make everything work out for good people.”

BUT. If you find a mate and procreate, you’re all good! “Every one of you here today as a graduate can live an abundant life,” he told the students. “Every single one of you. You will not all be rich and famous and powerful, but each of you can live an eminently successful, rewarding, abundant life.”

Romney, on the other hand, will remain rich and famous and powerful. But not everybody can do that. So just shut up and get pregnant, already.

Watch and learn:

#India- Unable to pay bribe, woman delivers baby at bus stand #Vaw #WTFnews

PTI Apr 14, 2013,
(The 24-year-old woman,…)


SALEM, Tamil Nadu: A pregnant woman was allegedly asked to pay a bribe for treatment at a government hospital here today, and unable to pay it, she was forced to deliver the baby at a bus stand.
The 24-year-old woman, a labourer hailing from Vijayawada in Andhra Pradesh, had come to the hospital with her husband and two children, aged five and two years, after she experienced labour pains this morning, but some nursing staff allegedly demanded Rs 1000 for her delivery, Dr Vallinayagam, Hospital dean said.

The woman was reportedly forced to go out of the ward when she could not pay the money and when she reached the Salem old bus-stand, walking for about a kilometre from the hospital, she delivered the baby boy, dean said, adding two women passers-by assisted her.

Locals immediately called an ambulance and rushed her to the same government hospital where the matter was reported to me, he said.

Vallinayagam said a three team headed by him would conduct an inquiry tomorrow and if the incident was found true, the hospital staff concerned would be suspended.


Delhi High Court allows rape victim to abort, asks AIIMS to preserve foetus

 New Delhi, Sun Mar 24 2013, , IE

A woman, who had alleged that she was raped and had consequently conceived, was allowed to abort the baby by the Delhi High Court which termed it as “extremely traumatic” and asked AIIMS to preserve the foetus for conducting DNA test.

“To carry a child in her womb by a woman as a result of conception through an act of rape is extremely traumatic, humiliating and psychologically devastating,” Justice S P Garg said, while allowing the plea of the 22-year-old woman seeking permission to terminate the forced pregnancy.

The woman lodged an FIR against one Kapil alleging that he had established physical relations with her on the false promise of marriage. He had also concealed the fact that he was a married man, the woman had alleged.

Allowing her plea, the court said, “X (the victim) hails from the poor strata of the society and is likely to face innumerable mental, physical, social and economical problems in future. There are no reasons to prevent her not to exercise her option voluntarily in her interest.

“…the petition is allowed with the direction to the SHO of the concerned police station or any other responsible police officer with lady police officer to accompany the complainant ‘X’ and produce her before Medical Superintendent, AIIMS within three days to get her pregnancy terminated where Board of two medical practitioners would be constituted by the Medical Superintendent on that day itself.

“They shall preserve the foetus and DNA test will be conducted thereupon and its report shall be produced before the Trial Court at the earliest.”

The court also said the girl “be provided proper medicine, diet and nutritious food as may be necessary for her health.”

It was said in the plea that the girl was “unable to carry the pregnancy to full term due to social stigma as she is victim of rape.”


#India- Court issues order on right of pregnant prisoners to access MTP #womenrights #reproductiverights



INDORE – The High Court of Madhya Pradesh at Indore issued an order allowing Hallo Bi, a pregnant female prisoner, to exercise her reproductive rights under the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act (Act). Hallo Bi had been sold into prostitution by her husband and after months of continuous instances of rape, she became pregnant.

In the order, the Court wrote, “We cannot force a victim of violent rape/forced sex to give birth to a child of a rapist. The anguish and the humiliation which the petitioner is suffering daily, will certainly cause a grave injury to her mental health.” This is a positive development for Hallo Bi and sets an important precedent for similar circumstances by affirming rape victims’ right to lawful termination of pregnancy under the 1971 Act. Unsafe abortions are one of the leading causes of maternal mortality in India with approximately 6.7 million abortions performed every year at unregulated facilities, often by medical practitioners untrained in abortion services.

In early December 2012, Human Rights Law Network (HRLN) Reproductive Rights Unit Assistant Director, Ms. Karla Torres, read an article in the Times of India about a pregnant woman who was in prison for murdering her husband and had been ordered to make a written application to the High Court for a termination of pregnancy. After communicating with HRLN advocate Mrs. Shanno Shagufta Khan in Indore and meeting with Hallo Bi, HRLN filed a petition requesting the High Court to allow for a medical termination of pregnancy.

The petition also stressed the Act’s silence on this issue and asked the High Court to issue guiding directions. As both the Act and the jail manual are silent on this aspect, the High Court had requested Hallo Bi to submit a written application for a medical termination of pregnancy. The High Court subsequently denied Hallo Bi’s application. HRLN’s petition stressed that the High Court had erred in not allowing Hallo Bi’s application as the power to refuse the same did not lie with the High Court.

Under the Act, the decision to terminate a pregnancy is between a woman and her doctor(s). As such, once a medical practitioner is of the opinion that the pregnant woman falls within the conditions laid down in the Act, a medical termination of pregnancy can take place. A court, therefore, does not have authority to determine whether a woman can or cannot terminate her pregnancy. Instead, a court can ensure that a woman who requests a medical termination of pregnancy under circumstances that satisfy the Act is provided with adequate medical care and services to fulfil her right to a termination of pregnancy.

Although the High Court found that Hallo Bi’s circumstances satisfied the MTP Act, the Court did not include guiding directions. Notwithstanding, HRLN plans to request a review of the petition so that this issue is taken up afresh and guiding directions are issued.

Download the full order here


#India-Pregnant women forced to urinate on test strips #WFTFnews #Pune

In addition, patients are handed empty sachets from pregnancy kits to collect urine samples, as gynaecology OPD doesn’t have enough workers to clean the containers generally used for the purpose.

January 28, 2013
Anup Satphale and Swapnal Tilekar, Mid Day

Pregnant women these days have to suffer more than just labour pain at Sassoon hospital. Shortage of staff at the termination of pregnancy and antenatal care OPDs has led to expectant mothers extending a helping had to the institute authorities, albeit unwillingly.

MiD DAY discovered that women are being supplied with empty sachets from pregnancy kits to collect urine samples, as there aren’t enough workers to clean the containers generally used for the purpose.

File Pic

Also, patients are being asked to urinate directly on test strips, which are then handed over to lab technicians for examining sugar and albumin levels.

Matter of concern: A woman carries an empty sachet from a pregnancy kit (circled) for collecting urine sample at Sassoon hospital

The matter came to light when a MiD DAY reporter visited the OPD area. A woman, who had come for urine test, told us, “I was surprised on being asked to collect my sample in a sachet. They did not have a bottle. It is quite embarrassing to take these pouches all the way to the restroom and then carry it back, with utmost caution, to the lab.”

Self-help! A woman carrying a strip to the restroom for urine test at Sassoon Hospital. This strip will then be handed to a lab technician for examining sugar and albumin levels

Many women were also being made to urinate on the test strips, in an unhygienic washroom, a few feet away from the doctor’s cabin. If the number of patients is more on a particular day, the women are forced to wait for long periods after conducting the tests. Sources said this practice is unsafe, as there is high probability of the samples getting contaminated, which may in turn result in improper diagnoses.

Elaborating on this further, one of the sources from the OPD section said “We used to provide bottles to patients to collect urine samples for various, tests but because of unavailability of workers to clean those containers, we have stopped the practice. Now, we furnish empty sachets from pregnancy kits for the purpose. Also, we have been advised to supply strips, which are used to check sugar and albumin levels, directly to patients, who are then asked to urinate on them so tests can be performed.”

1,500 Total number of beds at Sassoon General Hospital

The other side
Dr Ramesh Bhosale, HOD, gynaecology department at Sassoon hospital, said, “There is no shortage of anything in OPDs and wards. Also, directly urinating on strips will not affect the reports in any way. If that were the case, then I would have asked them to desist from using this method. However, I was not aware of the practice of using sachets for collecting samples. This may have been started by an intern or a trainee doctor.”


#India #Ambala 13 year old raped delivers child #VAW #Torture #WTFnews

A 13-year-old girl, who was reported to be pregnant on Saturday after being allegedly raped by a married man here, delivered a girl child at a Panchkula hospital on Sunday.
Assistant sub-inspector Karan Singh Rana said: “Suspect Deepak, who is a Balmiki Majri resident, was produced before the duty magistrate on Sunday and has been remanded in police custodyfor two days.” He said the police were also on the lookout for his accomplice Mohit, who was allegedly providing him accommodation for the sordid act.Local residents said Deepak was married with a daughter, adding that the victim, a Class-6 student, had lost her father a few years ago. They said as her mother was mentally challenged, she was being looked after by her grandmotherwho was eking out a living by doing odd jobs in houses.The incident had surfaced when the victim had developed pain in the abdomen and her grandmother had taken her to the civil hospital for check up on Friday. After doctors diagnosed her to be pregnant, the victim had reportedly told her grandmother that the accused was exploiting her sexually for the past several months.She had said that she was scared of the suspect, as he had threatened her against divulging details to anyone.

#India- #MaternalHealth Program blasted by #NAMHHR

Indian Maternal Health Program Blasted by Critics

By Swapna Majumdar

WeNews correspondent

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

A requirement that participants have no more than two living children excludes numerous women in high-fertility regions in India who could most benefit from the $80 outlay.

Women in India with more than two living children are denied program benefits.
Women in India with more than two living children are denied program benefits.

Credit: Swapna Majumdar

NEW DELHI (WOMENSENEWS): At 28, Leela Devi, who lives in a small village in the impoverished northern state of Uttar Pradesh, seems like an obvious candidate for a new government program to improve the health of pregnant and lactating women.

Devi is weak and finds herself constantly tired. She has given birth seven times. Two of her children died soon after birth. The struggle to feed her surviving children meant that Devi, a daily wage laborer, had to return to work before she had adequately recovered from childbirth and pregnancy.

National health surveys have shown that high levels of under-nutrition and anemia in adolescents and women are exacerbated by early marriage, early childbearing and inadequate spacing between births.

Data show that more than half of women in India (55 percent) are anemic, with 63 percent of lactating women and 59 percent of pregnant women suffering from the condition.

But Devi and a huge portion of other low-income women will not be eligible for a new government health program that provides cash assistance of $80 because they have had too many children.

The Indira Gandhi Maternity Support Scheme is only open to pregnant women who are over 18 years of age and don’t have more than two living children. One 2011 study, however, based on the latest national family health survey, indicated as many as 63 percent of poor women between ages 15 to 49 would be disqualified from the program because they had more than two children.

The benefit requires a pregnant woman to register her pregnancy at a health center, accept immunization of the mother and child and agree to exclusive breastfeeding and growth monitoring of children.

With the scheme being piloted in four states, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Jharkhand and Odisha–all high fertility states–health activists contend the government is promoting a coercive two- child policy in the name of population stabilization by offering incentives for only those women who have two children.

Flawed Scheme

The National Alliance for Maternal Health and Human Rights, a group of 17 nongovernmental organizations working on gender and health, conducted a study of the maternal health program and found that designers of the program visualized the eligibility conditions as encouraging a “small family norm.”

The group, which monitored the maternity scheme from an equity and accountability perspective, found that this approach ignored how maternity was embedded within the vicious cycles of poverty, ill health and impoverishment for rural and marginalized women.

Health activists say that by imposing the exclusion criteria that denies this benefit to women with more than two children, the scheme fails to address the fact that women have no control over their bodies and have little or no access to contraception. The women excluded by the eligibility criterion most need the cash benefit because they have such limited access to health and family planning services and have little choice about bearing children and birth control.

The eligibility criterion, in short, defeated its stated purpose of improving pregnant women’s access to income, food and rest, said Kalyani Meena of Prerana Bharti, one of the alliance’s partner nongovernmental organizations that conducted the study in the state of Jharkhand.

All 57 women studied by the national alliance in the four states, during the period of December 2011 to March 2012, had gone through three to seven pregnancies. They all had a high rate of pregnancy failures due to malnutrition and poor availability of health care.

Given the lack of regulations and income insecurities in the informal sector, women in these regions are often forced to go back to work soon after childbirth and can neither practice exclusive breastfeeding nor provide sufficient care since they work under difficult conditions in places without child care services.

Family Size Barriers

In Uttar Pradesh, the most populous state in India with a population of over 200 million and where Devi lives, the average number of children born to a woman during her reproductive years is 3.6; it’s 3.9 for rural women.

Even if women wanted to limit their family size, the high cost of accessing health care stops many of them. The study found that almost all women who go to health care facilities suffer daily wage losses because of long waiting hours at the public hospital. Those losses are doubled if they are accompanied by their husbands.

Skipping work to rest during pregnancy and post-pregnancy means losing wages for two-to-18 months, which adds up to financial losses of between $16 and $220, according to the study.

Most of the women studied said they had taken loans to cover survival costs and then cut back on food or returned to work early to pay off the loans.

The government’s cash benefit of $80 would obviously be helpful to such women.

The report’s investigators conclude that if India’s high maternal mortality rate (212 deaths for 100,000 live births) is to be lowered, along with high rates of anemia and under-nutrition, then maternity benefits must be unconditional and food and health coverage universal. Hoping their findings would feed into the evaluation of the scheme, the report also recommends that women’s advocates be involved in monitoring and evaluating the program and in engaging community women in social audits to ensure gender concerns are addressed.

Swapna Majumdar is a journalist based in New Delhi and writes on gender, development and politics.

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