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Reproductive Rights in Indian Courts

Over the last decade, Indian courts have issued several notable decisions recognizing women’s reproductive rights as part of the “inalienable survival rights” implicitly protected under the fundamental right to life. In certain ground-breaking judgments, the courts have even for the first time recognized reproductive rights as essential for women’s equality and have called for respect for women’s rights to autonomy and decision-making concerning pregnancy. In cases spanning maternal health, contraception, abortion, and child marriage, Indian courts have adopted robust definitions of “reproductive rights” that reflect human rights standards. While court decisions are not uniform, this fact sheet explores the several trailblazing rulings that have since recognized women’s reproductive rights as a fundamental right to life, emphasizing the importance of the judiciary in addressing the barriers that deny women and girls their reproductive rights and in monitoring and consistently implementing existing decisions to ensure that restrictive and punitive reproductive health laws and practices are recognized as human rights violations.

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