Recommendations include the creation of a task force on gender-based violence, free contraception, moratoriums on loans taken by women workers
The establishment of a working group on gender-based violence to coordinate and monitor support and prevention services, the provision of free contraceptives and the granting of moratoriums on all loans taken out by women workers were among the recommendations of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) in its opinion to the government on Wednesday on protecting women’s rights during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a statement released Thursday, the NHRC said it had formed an expert committee to study the impact of the pandemic on human rights, which had led to opinions on various issues, including womens rights. The NHRC statement says the Center and state governments have been urged to implement the recommendations and report on actions taken.
Citing the National Commission for Women finding that cases of domestic violence had increased two and a half times from February to May, the NHRC recommended a “coordinated, interdepartmental health system response” to gender-based violence and a task force to ensure implementation of related laws.
The opinion, which was sent to various central ministries, including the ministries of women’s and children’s development, health and family and home affairs, as well as all states and territories of the Union , included recommendations on sexual and reproductive rights.
“Arrange for free contraceptives and other essentials for safe childbirth and abortion in public health facilities,” the advisory said.
The NHRC recommended extending the moratorium on loan repayments, including for self-help groups and MUDRA loans.
“A moratorium can be granted on all loans taken out by workers, including sex workers, from banks and other financial institutions. In the event of harassment on the part of lenders, the authorities concerned can be duly informed and take appropriate action, ”states the opinion.
The NHRC opinion said state governments can provide assistance to sex workers and they should be recognized as informal workers in order to access social protection measures.
Regarding accredited social health activists (ASHAs), anganwadi and sanitation workers, the opinion said pay should meet minimum wage standards and overtime should be compensated.
For women from Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Minority Communities, the advisory said essential health services, whether or not related to COVID-19, should be uninterrupted. The notice said the government should notify sanitary napkins and iron and folic acid supplements as essential items and ensure continued supply through the Rajiv Gandhi Adolescent Empowerment Program and Rashtriya Kishor Swasthya Karyakram. . The notice also stated that all pregnant inmates should be released and that for those inside prisons, better toilets and gender-sensitive health services should be provided.