Aurat March asks for increased health budget, trans, disability rights

It said this in its Feminist Manifesto on Healthcare

The Aurat March Lahore has released its manifesto on healthcare, which asks for an increase in the national budget for health, and ensuring proper healthcare for marginalised groups.

“Feminist Manifesto on Healthcare - Aurat March Lahore 2021” details the organisers’ demands regarding physical, reproductive and mental health.

“We demand that the state fulfil its own constitutional obligations: Article 38 of the Constitution of Pakistan states that the state shall “provide basic necessities of life, such as food, clothing, housing, education and medical relief, for all such citizens, irrespective of sex, caste, creed or race, as are permanently or temporarily unable to earn their livelihood on account of infirmity, sickness or unemployment.”

The manifesto asks for health budget to be increased to 5% of the GDP in the 2021-22 fiscal budget with specific information on allocated for women’s, transgender, reproductive, mental and rehabilitative health.

It expressed concerns at the government’s universal healthcare programme, Sehat Sahulat programme, being made accessible to only those who are registered with NARDA and have a CNIC.

“We recognise gender-based violence and violation of our bodies as a healthcare issue since it disproportionately harms the physical and mental capacities of survivors, and their loved ones,” it added.

The Aurat March has asked for an increase in the number of gender-sensitised medico-legal officers and the number of hospitals fulfilling the examination’s requirements. The two-finger ‘virginity’ test be banned across the country and de-facto discontinued, it said.

The manifesto says that disabled women face problems and oppression in more than one ways in our society.

It has demanded that medical research and healthcare staff be aware of special medical facilities required for transgender people and sexual and gender minorities. These include sex reassignment surgeries and doing away with misgendering.

Aurat March has also talked about ensuring healthcare to women prisoners, victims of child marriages and forced conversions.

“Many factories regulate toilet breaks, meaning that menstruating women have to wear the same sanitary pad/napkin for hours and often develop infection,” it added.

The manifesto talks about access to birth control, safe abortion, tackling high maternal mortality rate, reproductive cancers, menstrual health, and the right to privacy for anyone accessing healthcare facilities.

“We assert that emotional and psychological abuse be recognised as a form of violence,” it added.

It talked at length about mental health, and said mental health facilities should be part of gynecological and postpartum treatment.

Less talked-about issues such as eating disorders and body image issues should be made part of mental health budgets and conversations.

It condemned the harassment and violence against women health workers. The manifesto recongnised environmental issues and climate change as contributing factors to health issues in different parts of Pakistan.

It has asked to remove gender bias in medical research, and to increase women representation in medical trials as well as policymaking.

The story was originally published on February 24, 2021.

Aurat March

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