Women empowerment issues – Jobs,Reservation and education

Women’s reproductive autonomy as the new catchword


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: NFHS report

Mains level: India's progress and challenges in family planning and the concept of Reproductive autonomy,


Why is this news?

  • India’s progress in family planning initiatives and achievements in areas such as life expectancy, maternal health, and gender empowerment. Instead of ensuring reproductive autonomy for each woman, society has obsessed with total fertility rates and the ideal population size of a family.

Central Idea

  • The theme of this year’s World Population Day, Unleashing the power of gender equality: Uplifting the voices of women and girls to unlock our world’s infinite possibilities, holds significant relevance for India. In order to foster women-led development across various sectors in India, it is imperative to prioritize reproductive autonomy as a core component.

What is mean by reproductive autonomy?

  • Reproductive autonomy refers to an individual’s right and ability to make informed decisions regarding their reproductive health and choices without interference, coercion, or discrimination.
  • It encompasses the freedom to decide whether or when to have children, the number of children to have, and the spacing between pregnancies.
  • Reproductive autonomy includes access to comprehensive reproductive healthcare services, including family planning methods, contraceptives, sexual education, prenatal care, safe abortion services, and support for reproductive health decisions.

India’s progress in family planning

  • Family planning initiatives: India has been commended for its family planning initiatives, aiming to provide comprehensive reproductive health services to every potential beneficiary.
  • Reproductive health services: Efforts have been made to expand the contraceptive basket and provide a range of modern short and long-acting reversible contraceptives, permanent methods, information, counseling, and services, including emergency contraception.
  • Maternal health improvements: India has made impressive strides in maternal health, as reflected in the significant reduction in maternal mortality rates. The current rate stands at 97 per 100,000 live births, down from 254 in 2004.
  • Gender empowerment: India has achieved progress in empowering women and girls. The number of child marriages has been cut in half since the early 2000s, and teen pregnancies have significantly decreased.
  • Access to vital services: India has witnessed improved access to crucial services, including health, education, and nutrition.
  • Longer life expectancy: Life expectancy at birth has significantly increased in India over the years, with Indians now living a decade longer compared to the 1990s.

What are the Challenges?

  • Lack of physical autonomy: Despite the progress made, many women in India continue to lack physical autonomy.
  • Limited decision-making power: According to the National Family Health Survey, only 10% of women in India are independently able to make decisions about their own health.
  • Acceptance of marital violence: The survey also reveals that 11% of women believe that marital violence is acceptable if a woman refuses to have sex with her husband.
  • Unplanned pregnancies: Nearly half of all pregnancies in India are unplanned, highlighting a challenge in ensuring effective family planning services and education.
  • Ongoing gender disparities: While progress has been made, there are persistent gender disparities and inequalities that need to be addressed to achieve true gender equality.
  • Societal attitudes: Attitudes and societal norms that perpetuate gender-based discrimination and violence continue to pose challenges to women’s empowerment.

Opportunities for India

  • Advancing gender equality: India has a significant opportunity to advance gender equality, which can have far-reaching positive effects on various aspects of society, including economic growth, social progress, and inclusive development.
  • Economic growth potential: By increasing women’s labor force participation by 10 percentage points, India could unlock significant economic growth potential. It is estimated that this could contribute to more than 70% of the potential GDP growth, amounting to an additional $770 billion by 2025.
  • Human capital development: Empowering women through education and family planning can lead to the accumulation of human capital, which is crucial for sustainable development and economic progress.
  • Harnessing women’s potential: By enabling women to participate fully in various sectors, including science, technology, agriculture, education, and healthcare, India can tap into the immense talent, ideas, and innovation that women bring to the table.
  • Rights-based legislation and policies: India has the opportunity to formulate and implement legislation and policies that empower women, girls, and marginalized individuals, enabling them to assert their rights and make life-changing personal decisions.
  • Inclusive economic development: Promoting gender equality and empowering women can contribute to inclusive economic development by ensuring equal opportunities and participation for all segments of society.
  • Shifting population dynamics: By focusing on reproductive choices and ensuring reproductive autonomy for individuals, India can shape its population dynamics in a way that respects individual rights and choices, while also addressing demographic challenges.

Way forward

  • Investments in women’s lives: Ensuring gender equality and empowering women requires making investments in every stage of a woman’s life, from childbirth to adolescence to maturity. This includes providing access to quality education, healthcare, and support systems that enable women to make informed choices and assert their rights.
  • Legislation and policies: Formulating and implementing rights-based legislation and policies that empower women, girls, and marginalized individuals is crucial. This involves engaging with these groups, understanding their needs, and creating an enabling environment that supports their rights and decision-making.
  • Comprehensive reproductive health services: Continued efforts should be made to provide comprehensive reproductive health services that are accessible, affordable, and of high quality. This includes expanding the contraceptive basket, ensuring access to family planning methods, information, counseling, and emergency contraception.
  • Gender-just approaches: Adopting gender-just approaches and solutions is essential for building a prosperous and inclusive India. This involves challenging societal norms and attitudes that perpetuate gender discrimination and violence, and promoting gender equality as a fundamental value.
  • Population and development discourse: Reaffirming the commitment to placing individual rights, particularly women’s rights and well-being, at the center of the population and development discourse is crucial. Shifting the focus from population stabilization to respecting reproductive choices and promoting reproductive autonomy is essential.


  • On this World Population Day, let us reiterate our commitment to placing individual rights, particularly women’s rights and well-being, at the forefront of population and development discourse. Embracing gender-just approaches and solutions is essential for building a prosperous India and a better world for all.

Also read:

Menstrual health hygiene and sexual and reproductive health: The link

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