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UP’s Population Control Bill Rubs Salt Into Indian Women’s Lack Of Reproductive Autonomy

Posted: July 13, 2021

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Population Control Bill 2021 is a cruel reminder to Indian women that they never really had any control over decisions about family size.

The Assam and Uttar Pradesh governments have new regulations in their respective states to impose two-child policies. Both states aim to bar people with more than two children from receiving benefits from the government or holding government posts.

The new proposal is open for public feedback until July 19.

What is the proposed Population Control Bill 2021?

Here are some key points in the proposed Population Control Bill 2021.

  • State government will establish maternity centers in healthcare facilities to distribute contraceptives and educate the public about birth control.
  • They will also keep count of all pregnancies, deliveries, births, and deaths throughout the state.
  • The government would also introduce a mandatory topic on population control in all high schools.
  • The state would have a two-child policy in which families with more than 2 children will not be eligible for certain state-funded schemes.
  • The restrictions will progressively be initiated into each state government system.

In 2017, the Assam government implemented a population and women’s empowerment policy that required officials from the government to comply completely with the two-child rule.

Eerily like the control a patriarchal society keeps on a woman’s motherhood choices

  • What makes someone a mother?
  • Do you want to have a child?
  • What is the maximum number of children a mother could have?
  • When should a woman have a child?
  • What are the best ways to divide parenting and household responsibilities?
  • Who should be entitled to family income?
  • Who has the right to establish a family?

In the midst of it all, the question of women’s concerns and their loss of control over their own family size decisions in India arises.

So now, what happens if a woman has a girl child as the first one? Won’t she now be more pressurised to ensure that the second one is a boy?

What happens if a woman has twins in her second pregnancy?

What happens if the 2-child policy means that women could easily be forced to undergo tubectomies? If it is the woman who now has the onus of contraception (with all the health problems long term contraceptives mean), as men are notorious for not considering contraceptive options themselves?

What happens if a couple divorces after 2 children plus an irreversible surgical method of contraception (if done) and one or both of them want to marry again – what about children in the 2nd marriage?

What about mental health issues arising out of all these things? Who will take care of the woman?

How is it fair, or even humane, for the state to interfere in these decisions? Women in a majority of our population (certainly in UP, from all reports) do not have any say in what happens to their bodies – either in terms of marriage, sexual relationships, pregnancies, or any health problems that may be a fallout. Will the state also take responsibility for all this?

In most countries, the main health problems are inadequate or misleading reproductive health and contraceptive methods, inadequate knowledge about these methods and use, and consequent unplanned pregnancies, as well as increased maternal and child mortality rates.

But a woman’s body must belong to her, and she should have autonomy over it. She should be able to choose the number and timing of their children without fear of discrimination, violent acts, or oppression, as well as to have access to high-quality sexual and reproductive health services. She is the only one who really understands if she is emotionally and physically ready to handle, give birth, and care for her child.

However, it seems that now even the state will have a say in what should be a woman’s decision alone.

Image source: shutterstock

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