Women’s rights and how medical students can act as aides of progressive change

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Tanaya Agrawal, a 22 year old third year Medical Student from Maharashtra University of Health Sciences (MUHS), India. She is affiliated to the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), cordial partner of The Sting. The opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writer and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.

As once said by Hillary Clinton, ‘Human rights are women’s rights, and women’s rights are human rights.’ Despite living in the twenty-first century, why is it so that females still are subjugated in various parts of the world and not even provided basic essential healthcare?

In the First Meeting of the Global Commission on Women’s Health, 1994, Geneva1, it was discussed how the devaluation of women indicates a denial of rights and subsequently proper healthcare. Women’s rights in the healthcare sector may be violated by lack of certain health care services or more commonly by the lack of information about their health options. Here is where the medical students can be a great boon.

Women are physiologically distinguishable from men in more than reproductive and hormonal status, thus the research and health interventions specifically relevant to women is equally important. For instance there are diseases or conditions that affect females and males differently. The prevalence, risk factors, differs with the gender. The effects of drugs differ too.

Females suffer from health risks in every stage of life due to lack of awareness and gender bias.

Some 500000 women die each year from preventable causes related to complications of pregnancy and childbirth.

A female child even before birth is denied the basic right to be born, something known as female foeticide. The extent has lessened due to the awareness brought about by the feminist rights and movements, but its still a problem. In India, the government had to interfere by introducing the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PCPNDT) Act, 1994 which aimed at stopping female foeticides and arrest the declining sex ratio in India. The act banned prenatal sex determination2.

Abortion3 as a basic human right should be available for each woman.

In the US4 “Heartbeat bills” are being proposed. As the term implies, seek to make abortion illegal as soon as what anti-abortion supporters describe as a ‘foetus heartbeat’ becomes detectable. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists says the name is misleading, and what is being detected is “a portion of the foetal tissue that will become the heart as the embryo develops”. In most cases, this point is at the six-week mark of a pregnancy – before many women even know they are pregnant.

According to Recommendation 45; Unwanted pregnancy should be recognized as a specific health risk for women and their families. Regardless of the legal status, humane treatment of septic and incomplete abortion and post-abortion contraceptive advice and services should be made available. This issue must be publicised and where legal, abortion services must be provided.

Women’s rights and health go hand in hand. As medical students, one can begin to advocate for them as early as possible. Spreading awareness, informing them about their rights, protesting against unjust acts is a start.

The role of medical students in closing the gap in accelerating women’s rights is crucial. Thus, it is essential that every medical student gives this topic the importance it deserves.


  1. Global Commission on Women’s Health. Meeting (‎1st: 1994: Geneva, Switzerland)‎ & World Health Organization. Adviser on Health and Development Policies. (‎1994)‎. Women’s health : towards a better world, report of the First Meeting of the Global Commission on Women’s Health, 13-15 April 1994, Geneva, Switzerland. World Health Organization. https://apps.who.int/iris/handle/10665/62706
  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pre-Conception_and_Pre-Natal_Diagnostic_Techniques_Act,_1994



  1. https://www.who.int/health-topics/abortion#tab=tab_1

4. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-47940659

5. The strategy reflected in Recommendation 4 of the International               Conference on Better Health for Women and Children through Family Planning (93)

Women’s health care laws pg 38,39.

Global Commission on Women’s Health. Meeting (‎1st: 1994: Geneva, Switzerland)‎ & World Health Organization. Adviser on Health and Development Policies. (‎1994)‎. Women’s health : towards a better world, report of the First Meeting of the Global Commission on Women’s Health, 13-15 April 1994, Geneva, Switzerland. World Health Organization. https://apps.who.int/iris/handle/10665/62706

About the author

Tanaya Agrawal is a 22 year old third year Medical Student from Maharashtra University of Health Sciences (MUHS), India and a member of Medical Students Association of India (MSAI) NMO affiliated to the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA).

She recently joined IFMSA and is particularly passionate about mental health, women’s rights and spreading awareness through the literary medium. She aspires to undertake research projects pertaining to psychiatry.

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