Opposition, treasury in Sindh Assembly join hands to pass reproductive healthcare rights law

KARACHI: The Sindh Assembly on Wednesday unanimously passed the Sindh Reproductive Healthcare Rights Bill aimed at promoting the reproductive healthcare rights of men and women and taking care of complications with regard to pregnancy and childbirth.

The bill was originally handed to the standing committee on health a month earlier, which returned it to the house after necessary tweaking.

Health Minister Azra Pechuho tabled the bill for consideration and got it passed unanimously in the day’s session chaired by Deputy Speaker Rehana Leghari.

“This act gives legal status to this right because in Pakistan on average 80 women die every day because of pregnancy-related complications. This is compounded by the fact that millions of other women do not die, but suffer from complications such as fistula, sexually transmitted diseases and infertility,” said the statement objectives and reasons of the bill.

The house is told that only 74 of the 107 ventilators at the CHK are functional

“This legislation will promote the reproductive healthcare rights of men and women and shall redress the complications related to pregnancy and childbirth, which are among the leading causes and consequences of mortality and morbidity for women of reproductive age and reduce maternal death. Therefore, it is expedient to enact a law on the subject matter.”

The bill promotes reproductive healthcare rights, which includes providing reproductive healthcare information, which provides awareness regarding mental and physical health and well-being of individuals and families and allows the service users to make all decisions on the basis of full, free and informed consent.

It also encourages parental responsibility, which ensures the right of parents as educators and by including reproductive health education in the curricula at the secondary and higher secondary school levels as ‘life skills’.

It recognises that a couple has the right to information whether to start or plan a family including spacing, timing and the number of their children.

Besides, awareness among the public vis-à-vis prevalence and impact of morbidity and mortality would be created and people would be informed about availability of medical science to prevent such sufferings.

“All women have the right to protection from discrimination in social, domestic or employment spheres by reasons of pregnancies or motherhood as prescribed.

“All persons have a right to make independent decisions about their reproductive rights and the right to have decisions respected by others. Women are empowered for their reproductive well-being.”

The government is bound through this bill to provide quality reproductive healthcare through short- and long-term efforts comprising among others, to professionalise obstetric care, emergency obstetric and neonatal care.

The reproductive healthcare systems are to be improved, particularly in the primary healthcare sector that should reach the disadvantaged and vulnerable.

It also meant to support in diverse ways provision of family planning services, meet health needs of men and women through family planning services for prevention of unsafe and unplanned pregnancies.

The bill provides broadening of the scope of family planning and/or reproductive health services to various geographical areas, and provision of service to reduce infant and neonatal mortality, decrease preterm and stillbirths and strengthening the reproductive healthcare system.

It will also enforce the public sector approved manual on family planning standards.

33 ventilators at CHK dysfunctional

Earlier, a Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf lawmaker moved an adjournment motion regarding increasing incidence of gastroenteritis and diarrhoea in Karachi. However, the chair ruled it out of order.

The health minister earlier conceded to a calling-attention notice moved by PTI’s Sanjay Gangwani that 74 out of 107 ventilators were functional at Ruth Pfau Civil Hospital Karachi (CHK).

She said 15 of those ventilators were being repaired while the rest had completed their life. She said tendering process for new ventilators would be made in a month and the situation would improve soon at the hospital.

Dr Pechuho said necessary actions had been taken to protect population in Thar from Congo-Crimean hemorrhagic fever after a middle-aged man from Chhachhro died in a Karachi hospital.

Meanwhile, the house also unanimously passed The Sindh Institute of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences (Amendment) Bill, 2019, which was aimed at “smooth functioning” of the only ophthalmology institute in Sindh.

The Sindh Institute of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Bill, 2019 was introduced and referred to a standing committee for further consideration.

Karoonjhar mining

Qasim Soomro, a lawmaker belonging to the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party from Tharparkar, raised an issue being hotly debated on social media vis-à-vis mining of Karoonjhar hills of Nagarparkar area for granite.

He said the area was rich in folklore, minerals, religious archaeology and forestry. He said the area was victim of deforestation for a while. Its mountains were rich in granite and other minerals found a few decades ago. A number of companies, then, were licensed for excavation. However, the work was suspended when their leases got expired, he added.

He said at present one of the two companies was busy in excavating the mountain. However, sensing the gravity of the situation, the provincial government withdrew its permit, but the company secured a stay order and was continuing the work.

He added, “The social media is wrongly implicating me for all these activities, but, I have nothing to do with it.”

Mines and Minerals Minister Shabbir Bijarani said he presided over a meeting which discussed the issue at length and decided to identify the sites, forest area, wildlife and archaeological sites, which could be saved from the mining.