1. Bodily Integrity - All women have the right to protect their bodies and have control over them. Thus women cannot be deprived of their sexual and productive abilities by men or the state and they cannot be made to use these abilities according to the latter's whims and fancies.
2. Personhood - Women will take their own decisions regarding reproduction and sexual behaviour and nobody can interfere in this.
3. Equality - Women are equal to men in all respects and so the gender division of labour under which women have been given the work of exclusively tending the children and the elderly and also doing housework has to be abolished and men should also take up these responsibilities and allow women to participate more equally in social, economic and political activities. Apart from this women's health issues should be better addressed on par with those of men.
4. Diversity - The differences arising from difference in values, culture, religion, class, nationality and the like should be respected.
The programme ran for a little more than a decade and in that time over 300 activists and researchers across the four nations and 77 in India were given fellowships. Recently, the JCMF decided to review the programme and a rigorous evaluation consisting of an online survey, key person interviews and case studies. Yesterday some of the fellows who had responded to the survey got together to discuss the preliminary results of the evaluation and review the current situation with regard to women's reproductive and sexual rights.
The review of the programme revealed that the fellows had done exemplary work both individually and to establish the field of reproductive and sexual health in their countries. However, the fellows themselves were not so enthusiastic about the situation of women's rights in India and especially reproductive and sexual health and rights. Patriarchy was still ascendant and despite more stringent laws that have been enacted over the past two decades, sexual rights of women and girls were being trampled at will. Public health services remained concentrated on providing maternal health services and that too at a minimal level whereas the gynaecological health of women was totally neglected.
Thus, on the ground most of the ideal points of sexual and reproductive rights enumerated at the beginning of this post are not secured and most women are doubly oppressed by patriarchy and poverty. The most worrying problem is that there is no big push for women's rights that was there two decades ago. The patriarchal forces at the world level have conspired to stall the holding of any more big conferences for women. The World Women's conference was held once every ten years since 1975 but after Beijing in 1995 there hasn't been one. Globally, the right to abortion, which is a crucial right of women, is under attack and most so in the United States of America. Funding for women's rights work both activism and research has also dwindled. Quite a few of the fellows who were running NGOs had wound them up because they had run short of funds and were unable to develop a second line of leadership and were now surviving by doing consultancies. The JCMF representative said that the Foundation was closing its very strong reproductive and sexual health programme globally and was switching its focus to Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation!! As far as the Indian Government is concerned it has always been focused on maternal health to the almost complete neglect of gynaecological health. It is in this challenging situation that we have to work to take forward the struggle for women's rights and it is indeed a daunting task.