Ambika Tandon


Digital identification (ID) and data-driven systems have become central to the delivery of welfare and health services in the global South. These policies are designed to monitor and control developmental indicators, with some negative repercussions for women. They also impact the exercise of reproductive rights and access to health and welfare, in addition to informational privacy. This paper aims to understand the various axes along which digitalisation and data collection systems impact the exercise of the right to privacy, including reproductive rights. It focuses on two specific services that have been a target of digital and analog monitoring over the past decade – conditional cash transfers tied to maternal health, and abortion services. Through interviews with women patients, their families, and health providers in New Delhi, it found that monitoring systems can restrict women’s access to critical services. Extensive procedural requirements introduced for better targeting of welfare schemes, such as Aadhaar linked bank accounts and income and caste certifications acted as significant barriers to access. These requirements particularly impacted women who carry stigma when accessing abortion services, including poor and unmarried women, and adolescents. Health providers were forced to prioritise data collection over inclusive delivery of services. Data collection for Aadhaar-linked databases without informed consent was rampant, with repercussions for women’s informational privacy. Reproductive rights and various dimensions of privacy, including informational privacy and decisional autonomy are thus intrinsically linked. Future research on digital health needs to further probe these interlinkages and broaden the definition of the right to privacy.

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Ambika Tandon, 'Privacy and Reproductive Health: Curtailing Rights and Choices' (2021) 17(2) Socio Legal Review 136

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