Taboos and Social Pressures: Revisiting Reproductive Rights
Women are considered to be be counting on men. Earlier, a woman was regarded as subservient, submissive and dependent on the men folk, on her father and then upon her husband after marriage. Earlier, girls were married off at a tender age of 14 or 15 to men who were twice or thrice their age. Consequentially they got pregnant at tender ages of 14 and 15 years. At an age where girls were still attempting to understand their bodies, they were expected to raise children. Decades have flown by, literally but there has been very little change in the reproductive rights of women.
Women are brainwashed into thinking that abortion is murder. ” How can you kill you own child ?” Women are chastised for even thinking this. Sex education, contraception and safe sex appear like an alien concepts. Well, with abortion comes the question of girl child- “what if in the name of abortion an unborn girl child is being killed?” The act of legal abortion referred to as Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971 gives some medical centers the right to legally perform abortion. Albeit there are certain cases under which abortion can be performed, but I’d like to argue that we are moving somewhere.
The Indian law empowers women with a choice of abortion in the event of contraceptive abortion. All pregnancies- not just those that endanger the health of mother or foetus, or resulting from rape –- can be terminated legally. Technically, any woman above the age of 18 can have an abortion with nobody’s consent but her own and her doctor’s. However, as the society takes up such laws in hand which are designed to directly impact the lives of women in ostensibly positive ways, what is real on paper is not nearly as effective in practice. Just like other major women centric laws in India, that prohibit pre-natal sex determination, dowry, women’s education; legislative protection in the field of reproductive and abortion rights also does not translate to reality. It is still a dream which hopefully will turn into reality like all our other dreams. Well, this topic still remains highly debatable considering female foeticide but what isn’t debatable is the existence of abortion as a taboo. This is a choice has nothing to do with the society. It solely depends upon the woman for the society cannot abstain or force her to go for abortion. After all abortion is a personal decision and not a legal debate; when you take away a woman’s reproductive right, you also take away her rights as a human. —– About the author: The article has been contributed by our intern, Anmol Sabharwal.