We are deep into the 21st century, and yet we are at a point, where we have not progressed much. This is especially in reference to human rights revolving around women. We have come a long way from several practices and ideologies that take away their freedom and right to make decisions regarding their bodies. We have moved towards a time where there is increasing acceptance of talk around equality for all, and also the practice of it. One such right, that is intertwined with every human, is their right to do as they please with their body. It is a right that safeguards their need to express themselves or to protect the decisions made regarding their body and its function. Women’s right to their reproductive care and decisions is yet to make a conversation. No matter who or what one’s identity or gender is, one must possess the right to one’s body.
Women around the globe, have taken to the streets, demanding for abortion rights. One such revolutionary change was in Ireland in 2018, where abortion was legalized. Recently, women of Argentina have protested for their rights over their body. India, comparatively has one of the most progressive laws revolving around abortion rights, taking into consideration, various social and cultural barriers that it must cross. However, India also has problems such as female foeticide and sex selection of babies, which makes it even more hard to exercise a law that is free and functional.
One of the greatest flaws which we can find in the Abortion Law in India, is the difference between a married and an unmarried woman. An unmarried woman in India can have an abortion only at the mercy of the doctor’s decision. We all know that although the prevalence of coitus in India is widespread and according to a recent finding, the average age at which an Indian loses their virginity is said to be 14-17, just at par with the rest of the world, yet the conversation is tabooed more than the act itself. There is still lack of advocacy for safe and healthy sexual behavior, which includes using condoms to avoid STDs, STIs and also unwanted pregnancies. Unwanted pregnancies bring in not just responsibilities uncalled for, but also environments that might not be healthy for the baby itself. Apart from this, it also brings health complications and social outcasting in communities like ours. Planned parenthood, on the other hand, ensures the financial well-being of the parents as well as the future of the child.
A move towards the abortion rights was made by a bill proposed by Shashi Tharoor. It not just focuses on the abortion law, where there shouldn’t be any discrimination between married and unmarried woman and that married women don’t need the permission of their husbands to do so, but it also focuses on issues such as criminalizing marital rape and provision of free sanitary napkins for women. It focuses on women’s sexual, reproductive and menstrual health. This bill, if passed, could be revolutionary. This is one such bill that focuses not only on providing security to women with respect to their health but also acts as a tool to ensure that women have access to exercise their basic rights and also access the sanitary napkins, which majority of women don’t have the economical standing to afford. Hence, they will be at lower risks to infections and diseases. The Women’s Sexual, Reproductive and Menstrual Rights Bill, 2018, states, “It restores a married woman’s autonomy over her sexual rights and ensures unrelated facts are not used in presuming her sexual consent”. It also criminalizes marital rape and cautions against the use of women’s religion, ethnicity, caste, education, profession, clothing preference, social circle, personal opinion, past sexual conduct or any other related grounds to presume the women’s sexual consent. This is to bring focus upon women’s consent instead of her tacitly submitting to any kind of sexual advances.This bill also points that the provision of sanitary napkin is as vital as having access to clean toilets and water, and hopes to remove the stigma around menstruation and open up the conversation around it.
Understanding the dire need for bringing up this conversation as well as all conversations relating to women’s sexual, reproductive and menstrual health, the first step in the right direction is setting up a legislative which provides legal assurance to issues mentioned above. It would guarantee, if not a large shift, definitely a small one in the ways the problem is treated. And that would be one of the most deeply rooted steps in our country to ensure the provision of better rights to women.
Picture Courtesy- The News Minute