Women And THEIR Reproductive Rights

Published on 29 Apr 2016 . 4 min read

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So, when are you “planning”?

The question comes from people you may know well and also from ones known well to the “family” but not to you.

Does having a baby or “planning” to have a baby have anything to do with anyone else’s life? In a country where we usually tend to sweep “real-time” issues under the carpet, in a country where we usually choose to openly talk only about the “good” things when getting together with family, how is it that a question as PERSONAL as this can be posed?

Five years into marriage, Bithika and Rahul had to stave off intrusions as subtle hints at raising a family turned to outright questions, albeit veiled with humour. That Bithika, a hard working professional in the social development sector, was getting into the groove of her career and slowing down for maternity reasons could put serious brakes in her progress did not bother anyone. What concerned everyone was she was yet to fulfill her family duties and age was not on her side.

Out of habit or sheer curiosity, people inadvertently cause discomfort to newly married couples and also couples who have been married for a while, asking them about their plans to raise a family. It could be the ‘friendly’ neighbour next door, an aunt or an uncle in the family, or simply the maid checking things out before she consents to work for you. A private decision between two stake holders is usurped into the public domain spiraling uncontrollably taking on hues of social duties, family duty to carry the name into future generations, biological necessity and the list continues.

These couples get caught in the web and more so if both happen to be following their own career paths. Casualty is the realization that a woman needs to claim control over her body and her decisions regarding it. Strangely. It is the others who push and demand that a woman get married in time so she can bear and rear babies before time runs out. It is immaterial to others whether she has planned her career graph and set certain targets for professional and personal satisfaction; and that children may arrive late in that picture or not at all.

A report  recently concluded that women were the most untapped resource in the world. Having them in the work force could raise the GDP of many nations. A UNPA    of recognized the condition of women in patriarchal society and mooted the reproductive rights. According to it

  1. Reproductive health was a component of overall health, throughout the lifecycle for both men and women.
  2. Women must be empowered for decision making in voluntary choice of marriage, family formation. She has the right to decide the number, timing, spacing of children. She also has the right to access to the information and means needed to exercise voluntary choice.
  3. Equality and equity for men and women, to enable individuals to make free and informed choices in all spheres of life, free from discrimination based on gender.
  4. Sexual and reproductive security, including freedom from sexual violence and coercion and right to privacy.

As much as we may like to believe that such acts and practices are confined to the homes of lesser privileged, the mirror reflects a different image. In most Indian homes family and social knockings begin after the first year of marriage. Most women give in without a second thought while the others surrender to emotional blackmail. So what is the solution to this unending  cycle?

The solution lies at the very beginning when we raise our children. Girls must be raised to understand that she has a choice when it comes to choosing her partner and the time when she decides to tie the knot. She must be raised to understand that having decided to marry need not necessarily mean that she has to ‘settle’ down to raise kids. That it is okay if she wants some time for herself. It could also be okay if she doesn’t want them at all. If she wasn't, she could have the choice of adopting them also. And for her to exercise all these options, she must have the right to information and space to decide. The boys need to be raised to understand that he is not the one who can control a woman’s body and that all decisions related to her body rests with her.

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Women And THEIR Reproductive Rights29April
Ilakshee Nath
Ilakshee Bhuyan Nath is a freelance writer having contributed to magazines both e-versions as well as print. She donned many hats as TV newsreader, anchor and voice over artiste, teacher, communication specialist before starting on writing while baby-sitting her two daughters. She is an avid traveller, blogger and spectator of life.

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