Category: govt. policies/ health/ gender
1.Minimum Age of Marriage for Girls
Why in News
The Prime Minister, during his address to the nation on the 74 Independence Day, announced that the central government has set up a committee to reconsider the minimum age of marriage for women, which is currently 18.
About the Committee:
- On 2 June 2020, the Union Ministry for Women and Child Development set up a committee to examine matters pertaining to age of motherhood, imperatives of lowering Maternal Mortality Ratio and the improvement of nutritional levels among women.
- The Committee is headed by Jaya Jaitely.
- The Committee was proposed in the Union Budget 2020-21.
- It will examine the correlation of age of marriage and motherhood with health, medical well-being, and nutritional status of the mother and neonate, infant or child, during pregnancy, birth and thereafter.
- It will also look at key parameters like Infant Mortality Rate (IMR), Maternal Mortality Rate (MMR), Total Fertility Rate (TFR), Sex Ratio at Birth (SRB) and Child Sex Ratio (CSR), and will examine the possibility of increasing the age of marriage for women from the present 18 years to 21 years.
Link Between Age of Marriage and Nutrition:
- A study conducted by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), which was published in 2019, showed that children born to adolescent mothers (10-19 years) were 5 percentage points more likely to be stunted (shorter for their age) than those born to young adults (20-24 years), and 11 percentage points more stunted than children born to adult mothers (25 years or older).
- Children born to adolescent mothers also had 10 percentage points higher prevalence of low weight as adult mothers.
- It also highlighted other factors, such as lower education among teenage mothers and their poor economic status, which had the strongest links with a child’s height and weight measurements.
- It recommended that increasing age at first marriage, age at first birth, and girl’s education are a promising approach to improve maternal and child nutrition.
Arguments Against Increasing the Minimum Age of Marriage of Women:
- The National Coalition Advocating for Adolescent Concerns asserts that increasing the legal age of marriage for girls will only “artificially expand the numbers of married persons deemed underage and criminalise them and render underage married girls without legal protection”.
- It recommended bringing education for three-to-five year-olds and 15- to-18 years under the Right to Education, instead of confining the law to children between 6 years to 14 years.
Present Age for Marriage
- The Special Marriage Act, 1954 and the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006 prescribe 18 and 21 years as the minimum age of consent for marriage for women and men
- It needs to be noted that the minimum age of marriage is distinct from the age of majority which is gender-neutral. An individual attains the age of majority at 18 as per the Indian Majority Act, 1875.
- The laws prescribe a minimum age of marriage to essentially outlaw child marriages and prevent the abuse of minors. Personal laws of various religions that deal with marriage have their own standards, often reflecting custom.
- For Hindus, Section 5(iii) of The Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, sets 18 years as the minimum age for the bride and 21 years as the minimum age for the groom. However, child marriages are not illegal — even though they can be declared void at the request of the minor in the marriage.
- Additionally, sexual intercourse with a minor is rape, and the ‘consent’ of a minor is regarded as invalid since she is deemed incapable of giving consent at that age.
- The Indian Penal Code enacted in 1860 criminalised sexual intercourse with a girl below the age of
- The provision of rape was amended in 1927 through the Age of Consent Bill, 1927, which declared that marriage with a girl under 12 would be invalid.
- In 1929, the Child Marriage Restraint Act set 16 and 18 years as the minimum age of marriage for girls and boys respectively.
- This law, popularly known as the Sarda Act after its sponsor Harbilas Sarda, a judge and a member of Arya Samaj, was eventually amended in 1978 to prescribe 18 and 21 years as the age of marriage for a woman and a man respectively.
Different Legal Age of Marriage for Men and Women
- There is no reasoning in the law for having different legal standards of age for men and women to marry. The laws are a codification of custom and religious
- However, the law has been challenged on the grounds of
- Such a law violates Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution, which guarantee the right to equality and the right to live with dignity.
Against the Supreme Courts’ Following Judgements:
- In 2014, in the ‘National Legal Services Authority of India v Union of India’ case, the Supreme Court, while recognising transgenders as the third gender, said that justice is delivered with the “assumption that humans have equal value and should, therefore, be treated as equal, as well as by equal laws”.
- In 2019, in ‘Joseph Shine v Union of India’, the Supreme Court decriminalised adultery, and said that “a law that treats women differently based on gender stereotypes is an affront to women’s dignity”.
- Further India is a state party to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, 1979.
- The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), which monitors the implementation of the Convention, calls for the abolition of laws that assume women have a different physical or intellectual rate of growth than men.
- UNICEF estimates suggest that each year, at least 5 million girls under the age of 18 are married in India, which makes the country home to the largest number of child brides in the world — accounting for a third of the global total.
The government needs to emphasize upon economic and social empowerment of women and girls, as well as targeted social and behaviour change communication (SBCC) campaigns. Increasing the minimum age of marriage of women will also lead to gender-neutrality.
- National Digital Health Mission
Why in News
The Prime Minister of India announced the launch of National Digital Health Mission (NDHM) on 74 th Independence Day..
- This is a part of three digital announcements by the Prime Minister including a new cyber security policy and optical fibre connectivity to six lakh villages in the country.
- The NDHM is a complete digital health ecosystem. The digital platform will be launched with four key features — health ID, personal health records, Digi
Doctor and health facility registry.
- At a later stage, it will also include e-pharmacy and telemedicine services, regulatory guidelines for which are being framed.
- The NDHM is implemented by the National Health Authority (NHA) under the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
- The National Health Authority (NHA), is also the implementing agency for Ayushman Bharat.
- The platform will be available in the form of an app and
- The Digi Doctor option will allow doctors from across the country to enrol and their details, including their contact numbers if they want to provide them, will be
- These doctors will also be assigned digital signatures for free which can be used for writing prescriptions.
- It will be voluntary for the hospitals and doctors to provide details for the app.
- The national health ID will be a repository of all health-related information of every Indian.
- Various healthcare providers — such as hospitals, laboratories, insurance companies, online pharmacies, telemedicine firms — will be expected to participate in the health ID system.
- Every patient who wishes to have their health records available digitally must create a unique Health ID, using their basic details and mobile or Aadhaar
- Each Health ID will be linked to a health data consent manager, which will be used to seek the patient’s consent and allow for seamless flow of health information from the Personal Health Records module.
- The Health ID will be voluntary and applicable across states, hospitals, diagnostic laboratories and pharmacies.
- The National Health Policy 2017 had envisaged creation of a digital health technology eco-system aiming at developing an integrated health information system that serves the needs of all stakeholders and improves efficiency, transparency and citizens’ experience with linkage across public and private healthcare.
- the central government’s think-tank NITI Aayog, in June 2018, floated a consultation of a digital backbone for India’s health system – National Health Stack (NHS).
- A committee headed by former Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) chairman released the National Digital Health Blueprint in July 2019.
- NDHB recognised the need to establish a specialised organisation, called the National Digital Health Mission (NDHM), to facilitate the evolution of the National Digital Health Ecosystem.
- On 7 August 2020, National Digital Health Mission (NDHM) released its latest strategic document, outlining the envisioned digital registries of doctors, hospitals, pharmacies, and insurance companies, digital personal health records, and digital clinical decision systems.
National Health Policy 2017
- Aiming to provide healthcare in an “assured manner” to all, the NHP 2017 strives to address current and emerging challenges arising from the ever-changing socio-economic, technological and epidemiological scenarios.
- The policy advocates a progressively incremental assurance-based approach.
- It denotes an important change towards a comprehensive primary health care package which includes care for major NCDs (non-communicable diseases), mental health, geriatric health care, palliative care and rehabilitative care services.
- It envisages providing larger package of assured comprehensive primary health care through the ‘Health and Wellness Centres’
- The policy proposes free drugs, free diagnostics and free emergency and essential health care services in all public hospitals in a bid to provide access and financial protection.
- It also envisages a three-dimensional integration of AYUSH systems encompassing cross referrals, co-location and integrative practices across systems of medicines.
- It also seeks an effective grievance redressal mechanism. Health Expenditure: The policy proposes raising public health expenditure to5% of the GDP by 2025.
- To increase life expectancy at birth from 67.5 to 70 by 2025 and reduce infant mortality rate to 28 by 2019.
- To reduce mortality of children under-five years of age to 23 by the year 2025.
- To allocate a major proportion of resources to primary care and intends to ensure availability of two beds per 1,000 population distributed in a manner to enable access within golden hour (the first hour after traumatic injury, when the victim is most likely to benefit from emergency treatment).
- To achieve the global 2020 HIV target under 90-90-90 UNAIDS Target according to which by 2020,
- 90% of all people living with HIV will know their HIV status. 90% of all people with diagnosed HIV infection will receive sustained antiretroviral therapy.
- 90% of all people receiving antiretroviral therapy will have viral suppression.
- The NDHM still does not recognize ‘Health’ as a justiciable right. There should be a push draft at making health a right, as prescribed in the draft National Health Policy, 2015.
- One of the biggest concerns is regarding data security and privacy of patients. It must be ensured that the health records of the patients remain entirely confidential and secure.
- The standardisation of NDHM architecture across the country will need to find ways to accommodate state-specific rules.
- It also needs to be in sync with government schemes like Ayushman Bharat Yojana and other IT-enabled schemes like Reproductive Child Health Care and NIKSHAY
- RTI on PM-CARES Fund
Why in News
The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) has denied a Right to Information request related to the Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations Fund (PM-CARES Fund).
- The PMO denied information on the number of applications and appeals related to PM-CARES and the Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund.
Reason for denial:
- The information was denied by the PMO on the grounds that providing it would “disproportionately divert the resources of the office” under Section 7(9) of the Right to Information Act, 2005.
- According to the Section 7 (9) of the RTI Act, “an information shall ordinarily be provided in the form in which it is sought unless it would disproportionately divert the resources of the public authority or would be detrimental to the safety or preservation of the record in question.”
- Misuse: The move has been criticized by the Central Information Commission (CIC) as misuse of Section 7(9) by the PMO.
- Kerala HC Judgement: According to the judgment by the Kerala High Court in 2010, Section 7(9) does not exempt any public authority from disclosing information.
- It only gives discretion to the public authority to provide the information in a form other than the form in which the information is sought for.
- Section 8 (1) lists the various valid reasons for exemption against furnishing information under the Act and not Section 7(9).
Concerns around PM CARES Fund:
- Concerns have been raised around the opaqueness of PM CARES Fund’s trust deed against public scrutiny of the expenditure of the fund.
- The need for a new PM CARES Fund, given that a PM National Relief Fund (PMNRF) with similar objectives exists.
- The decision to allow uncapped corporate donations to the fund to count as CSR expenditure, a facility not provided to PMNRF or the CM’s Relief Funds, goes against previous guidelines stating that CSR should not be used to fund government schemes.
- A government panel had previously advised against allowing CSR contributions to the PMNRF on the grounds that the double benefit of tax exemption would be a “regressive incentive”.
- Donations to PMCARES have been made tax-exempt, and can be counted against a company’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) obligations. It is also exempt from the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 2010, and accepts foreign contributions.
- Earlier, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) had said that the PM-Cares Fund is not a public authority under the ambit of Section 2(h) of the RTI Act, 2005.
- A Public Interest Litigation (PIL) petition has been moved before the Delhi High Court asking to bring PM-CARES Fund under the ambit of the Right to Information (RTI) Act.
- A Petition seeking transfer of contributions made to PM-CARES Fund To the National Disaster Response Fund (NDRF) has also been made in the Supreme Court of India.
- The government maintained that statutory funds like NDRF, formed under Section 46 of the Disaster Management Act of 2005, are provided for by central and State budgets. These statutory funds do not take private contributions, unlike PM-CARES Fund.
Section 2(h) of the RTI Act, 2005
- Under section 2(h) of the RTI Act “Public authority” means any authority or body or institution of self government established or constituted— by or under the Constitution; by any other law made by Parliament/State Legislature.
- Recently, The Supreme Court has ruled that the office of the Chief Justice of India (CJI) is a public authority under the Right to Information (RTI) Act,
Section 8 of the RTI Act, 2005
- This provides for exemption from disclosure of information such as-
- Which would affect the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security, strategic, scientific or economic interests of the State; Which has been expressly forbidden to be published by any court of law or tribunal; Which would cause a breach of privilege of Parliament or the State Legislature; Information including commercial confidence, trade secrets or intellectual property; Information received in confidence from foreign government; Information which would endanger the life or physical safety of any person; etc.