The right to liveThe misuse of technology to enforce sex-selective abortion needs to stop.
The Post on Thursday brought to light a rather disturbing trend in Nepal, whereby women, unable to resist the machinations of patriarchy, are forced to undergo sex-selective abortions, and in effect facing long-term physical and psychological stress if not death. Though Nepal's laws allow abortions up to 12 weeks of gestational age on the request of a pregnant woman, up to 18 weeks of gestational age in the case of rape and incest and at any gestational age if the pregnancy is detrimental to the woman's health and life, or if there is foetal impairment, an illegal abortion industry is working in the shadows, exploiting the desire of Nepali parents to have at least one boy child or more. And in doing so, the industry is killing thousands of girl children before they are even born, and in effect, a significant number of pregnant women who end up going under the knife at the hands of quack health professionals, away from the scrutiny of the legal mechanism.
What is more, even in cases of accidents arising from unsafe abortions, parents, especially pregnant mothers, cannot seek legal help. Anecdotal evidence abound of doctors at private clinics and hospitals even in metro cities revealing the gender of the unborn child to expecting parents. Superstition and patriarchal social norms meet criminality and lawlessness, thereby leaving the physical and mental health of pregnant mothers in shambles and cutting prenatal life too short.
It is also a case of technology meeting patriarchy, taking the violence against women straight to the womb if the violence in everyday life was not enough. It is as if the birth of technologies to identify the gender of the foetus and terminate pregnancy in extraordinary cases has become a bane for the unborn girl child and the pregnant woman. But the truth is otherwise. There is no denying the importance of such technologies when used in legal and safe conditions, but the continuing misuse of the technologies in a way that puts at risk the sexual and reproductive health and rights of women, and the girl child's right to life, needs to be checked. While the law enforcement agencies need to be more active in their action against sex-selective abortion, there is also a need to create mass awareness about the need to stop such practices right away for legal, ethical, social and bodily reasons.
In some cases, even if the women who undergo sex-selective abortion claim to have done so out of their own will, there is a need to question the conditions that may have shaped their will: lack of education, internalisation of patriarchal norms, and socially constructed misconception that men have better chance to perform well in a society that is highly competitive and biased against women. So there is a need to sensitise individuals of all sexes and genders about the physical and psychological harms the practice of sex selection has on women.
Moreover, a widespread practice of sex selection results in gender imbalance in the long run, leaving us with men outnumbering women. We should wake up right now, for we cannot wait until everything goes spiralling downwards before we realise what we have done to society.