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UNFPA’s population report


The State of World Population Report 2021 titled ‘My Body is My Own’ by the United Nations Population Fund’s (UNFPA) shows only 55% of women are fully empowered to make choices.


GS-II: Social Justice (Issues Related to Women, Governance and Government Policies, Issues Arising Out of Design & Implementation of Policies), GS-I: Indian Society, GS-II: International Relations (International Organizations, Important Reports)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About the State of World Population Report 2021
  2. Highlights regarding Indian Women and Bodily Autonomy
  3. About United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)
  4. United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and India

About the State of World Population Report 2021

  • This is the first time a United Nations report has focused on bodily autonomy, defined as the power and agency to make choices about your body without fear of violence or having someone else decide for you.
  • The report shows that in countries where data is available, only 55% of women are fully empowered to make choices over healthcare, contraception and the ability to say yes or no to sex. It also highlights that only 75% of countries legally ensure full and equal access to contraception.

Some examples of violation of bodily autonomy include:

  1. child marriage,
  2. female genital mutilation,
  3. a lack of contraceptive choices leading to unplanned pregnancy,
  4. unwanted sex exchanged for a home and food,
  5. when people with diverse sexual orientations and gender identities cannot walk down a street without fearing assault or humiliation,
  6. it also includes people with disabilities stripped of their rights to self-determination, to be free from violence and to enjoy a safe and satisfying sexual life.

Realising bodily autonomy is essential to achieving the UNFPA’s goals of ending the global unmet need for contraception, preventable maternal deaths, gender-based violence and harmful practices by 2030.

Highlights regarding Indian Women and Bodily Autonomy

  • In India, according to NFHS-4 (2015-2016), only about 12% of currently married women (15-49 years of age) independently make decisions about their own healthcare, while 63% decide in consultation with their spouse.
  • For a quarter of women (23%), it is the spouse that mainly takes decisions about healthcare.
  • Only 8% of currently married women (15-49 years) take decisions on the use of contraception independently, while 83% decide jointly with their spouse.
  • Information provided to women about use of contraception is also limited — only 47% women using a contraceptive were informed about the side effects of the method, and 54% women were provided information about other contraceptives.

About United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)

  • The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) is a UN agency aimed at improving reproductive and maternal health worldwide.
  • UNFPA’s work includes developing national healthcare strategies and protocols, increasing access to birth control, and leading campaigns against child marriage, gender-based violence, obstetric fistula, and female genital mutilation.
  • The UNFPA supports programs in more than 150 countries across four geographic regions: Arab States and Europe, Asia and the Pacific, Latin America and the Caribbean, and sub-Saharan Africa.
  • UNFPA is the world’s largest multilateral source of funding for population and reproductive health programs.
  • UNFPA uses a human rights-based approach in programming to address three “transformative goals”:
  1. Zero preventable maternal death
  2. Zero gender-based violence
  3. Zero unmet need for family planning.

United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and India

  • According to the UNFPA reports, India will be the most populous country by the year 2028, although its fertility rate has declined from about 3.6 to 2.4 children in the last three decades. 
  • Now a middle-income country, India has seen significant improvements in health and education but wide inequalities persist:
  1. Maternal mortality and gender discrimination remain high.
  2. Early marriage and pregnancy contribute to excessive maternal death among women under 24.
  3. The low status of women is a factor as well, one that is reflected in an extremely skewed ratio of girls to boys.

-Source: The Hindu

December 2023