The COVID-19 pandemic is prompting a much deeper crisis on the world's population than we can tell. While the focus largely stays on rebuilding the economy and controlling the surging cases of coronavirus, a lot of other issues faced by vulnerable groups are being neglected. Gender-based violence is on the rise, and sexual and reproductive health services have taken a back seat.
What does it mean for reproductive health issues to be sidelined in this pandemic?
On the occasion of World Population Day which is observed on 11 July every year, the United Nations Population Fund or the UNFPA estimated that 47 million women in low and middle income countries may not have had access to safe contraceptives, and there could be 7 million unintended pregnancies at the least. Among them are millions of Indians who lost their access to contraceptive options the minute the lockdown began.
Supply chains around the world have been disrupted and a lot of work done by sterilisation service providers in India have been reversed in just the last few months. If we can't visibly see the adverse impacts of this crisis on India's population right now, we're likely to see them soon in the form of millions of unwanted pregnancies in the country, millions of unsafe abortions, not to mention maternity deaths.
So why is it so important to talk about reproductive rights in relation to family planning and population growth? What are the policy asks to mitigate the negative impacts of the lockdown on India's population?
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