“Two-child norm is gender-insensitive, disempowering for marginalised women in society and poses a serious risk to their lives”.
Though India’s population growth rate is now the lowest it has been in the last fifty years, India’s population stabilization efforts continue to centre around family planning, with a focus on fertility reduction.
The rush to control population by cutting benefits to the women who have more than two children and penalising them is for many an unconstitutional approach of the government. Recently, Naveen Jindal recommended the parliamentary standing committee to consider limiting nutritional support to children under government schemes to only the first two children to “encourage stabilization of population”!
In a country where we continue to have large numbers of people — women, Dalits, adivasis, the poor, CSOs strongly recommend that maternity benefits and nutritional support schemes should be made unconditional. There should be no restrictions in access to these public support programmes with regard to age or parity. The government should ensure minimum support facilities at work (including crèches, wage compensation, nursing breaks and adequate maternity leave for exclusive breast feeding) for poor women in the country.
Mr. AR. Nanda, former Secretary, Family Welfare, and Registrar General, Government of India, chief architect of the National Population Policy 2000 and Chairperson of the National Coalition Against TCN and Coercive Population Policies, debunked the need for coercive measures to promote population stabilization. He argues that steps to link entitlements to population control or family size need to stop and emphasis should be laid on providing women with adequate nutritional supplements, extended to women who need it the most, i.e. women from socially and economically weaker backgrounds.
Ms. Jashodhara Dasgupta from National Alliance for Maternal Health and Human Rights (NAMHHR) stated that according to National Family Health Survey 3 (2005-6), nearly 60% of the most vulnerable women of the age group of 15-49 years have more than two children and will be qualified from maternity benefits; these include scheduled castes, scheduled tribes, poorest wealth quintile and women with no education. Data also shows that women from these vulnerable groups are highly likely to lose their children; the probability is one in fourteen children will die before their 5th birthday. As such, disqualifying vulnerable women from maternity benefits just because they give birth to more than two children is a cruel denial of their reproductive and economic rights. Maternity benefits and support are most essential for the well being of poor women and for the future generation of our country. There is an urgent need to delink the supplementary nutritional programmes and maternity entitlements from the two-child norm; else the “inclusive agenda” of the government will be defeated.
Dr. Abhijit Das (Convenor of the National Coalition Against Two-Child Norm and Coercive Population Policies, New Delhi) expressed serious concerns that such a disqualification is gender-insensitive, disempowering for marginalised women in society and poses a serious risk to their lives.