By Ila Ananya
Here are two before and after scenarios.
Before: A completely bizarre 1979 undivided Madhya Pradesh government order denied people belonging to Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs) any access to sterilisation. It was started to ‘save’ them from forced mass sterilisation drives because their population was so low. So since then, anybody belonging to these groups needed “permission” to be sterilised, getting a No Objection Certificate (NOC) from the Block Development Officer. This certificate would then “allow” them to be sterilised. You can imagine how easy this must have been.
After: Everyone is suddenly talking about how the Chhattisgarh government has amended this 1979 order. Now, according to the new rule, people will be allowed to apply for sterilisation if they get “permission” and a letter from their sub-divisional magistrate. You can imagine how easy this will be, since nothing has changed.
What’s the difference? Only the government seems to know, because it doesn’t seem like there’s been any. Except perhaps the permission letter is now supposed to be given by a sub-divisional magistrate rather than the Block Divisional Officer. So much difference.
Health activists along with women and men belonging to PVTGs have been fighting for a change in these rules, demanding the perfectly normal right to choose and make active choices about their bodies — in this case, to undergo sterilisation. So it isn’t surprising to find that health activists are exasperated about this decision (only Firstpost has reported this in a line and Indian Express), calling it out for the truly non-decision that it really is.
And not only is the rule the same as what it was before: the new amendment has completely missed the point, not even addressing the fact that there’s a huge problem in people having to get permission to choose a birth control method. It’s a personal right that’s still being restricted. We also know how it isn’t even like they have access to alternate methods of sterilisation.
This is one before and after scenario with no change.