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There should be no distinction between a married and an unmarried woman when it comes to all citizens’ equal right to care, and the 'moralities' of how the pregnancy happened should not matter.
‘Termination of pregnancy’ has always been a cultural, religious and emotional issue in most cultures, and the questions asked can be very intrusive and traumatising.
Having experienced this both as a married woman and a single woman I know the awkwardness of the questions asked for this by the healthcare workers. Questions about sexual activity, legal status of the relationship sometimes even asking the man to be present there in person for ‘permitting’ this procedure.
A woman’s right on her body, her uterus and its ability to reproduce has come into global focus earlier this year when the US Supreme Court decision overturned the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision paving the way for about half of the 50 US states to ban or heavily restrict women’s access to abortions.
The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act of 1971 and the Rules of 2003 earlier prohibited unmarried women between 20 weeks to 24 weeks pregnant from legally availing of a safe abortion.
So, to put it clearly, until now, abortion was allowed up to 20 weeks in both married and unmarried women, but up to 24 weeks only in
Now, with this judgement, unmarried women also have a right to accessing an abortion up to 24 weeks.
To quote more from the judgement – “Reproductive rights include
This landmark judgement is a huge relief to me personally today and to thousands of single sexually active women, that an unmarried woman can seek termination of pregnancy of up to 24 weeks term in a consensual relationship, not just if there was a breach of consent.
The Supreme Court of India has upheld the rights of bodily autonomy of a single woman as paramount, and equivalent to those of a married woman, something feminists have struggled for in their demand for reproductive rights.
Contraception usage is still low in India and hence the onus of an unwanted pregnancy is often on the uterus-bearer and birthgiver. Unmarried women denied the right to safe abortions then often resort to unsafe methods and the grey market of illegal abortions.
Statistics suggest that about eight women die everyday in India due to unsafe abortions. Between 2007-2011 about 67% of all abortions carried out in India have been considered unsafe by several studies.
The issue has been highlighted by gender right activists from time to time. To bridge this disparity, in the earlier 2021 amendments the word ‘partner’ was included in the law to include women who are not married to their sexual partner.
It is crucial that law and healthcare becomes inclusive of women who become pregnant outside the ambits of marriage as well. If the medical risks of any such procedure are the same for any woman, married or unmarried, then why should a legal marital status be used to discriminate in the care and services offered to them?
This right is now extended to any pregnancy even if it has resulted from a consensual relationship. There should be no distinction between a married woman and an unmarried woman when it comes to all citizens’ equal right to care, and the ‘moralities’ of how the pregnancy happened should not matter.
Justice DY Chandrachud delivering this groundbreaking judgement read an excerpt that said “the interpretation of the MTP act has to reflect the social realities. Social norms change and evolve as a society evolves and laws must match with the needs of the time. Prohibiting single or unmarried pregnant women from accessing abortion while allowing married women with the same term of pregnancy to access healthcare was a violation of Article 14 which gives the right to equality before law and equal protection.
The court also added that said a single or unmarried woman may undergo similar “change in material circumstances” as a married woman. Among these changes, the court listed
Plus the judgement also says that any woman is well within her rights now to decide to go for a safe abortion without the need to get permissions for this from anyone.
This judgement is hence a huge relief to married women as well as it is now also allows MTP for pregnancies that happen in cases of marital rape, even though marital rape itself remains a contested legal issue in our judicial system.
The judgement has said some bold and revolutionary words about a woman’s right to her body, and has garnered applause from most quarters supporting women’s rights.
The judgement shall always be a watershed moment in India’s legal history. However, mindsets do not change so fast and whether the Indian society shall support the autonomy of its women on their bodies remains to be seen.
Image source: pixabay
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Pooja Priyamvada is an author, columnist, translator, online content & Social Media consultant, and poet. An awarded bi-lingual blogger she is a trained psychological/mental health first aider, mindfulness & grief facilitator, emotional wellness trainer, reflective read more...
Women's Web is an open platform that publishes a diversity of views, individual posts do not necessarily represent the platform's views and opinions at all times.
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Mostly Normal is a book of innocence, longing, filial love, angst and acceptance, encapsulating a gamut of human emotions within its lightweight edifice. The book touches the human heart and will stay with you.
Some books enthral you till the last page, and then there are those that you stop reading after turning a few pages. Some books are a one-time read, while you carry some books with you long after you have read them. Then, once in a while, a book hits you so close to home that you find it difficult to slot into any category.
I will put Priyadeep Kaur’s Mostly Normal (BookSoul Reads, 2022) in this last bracket.
At a little less than hundred pages, Mostly Normal is a testimony of the power of words to inspire, irrespective of their length.
Most women do not get to live their lives the way they want, on their own terms. So why should they be tied down in their old age?
Every morning, while dropping the kids at the bus stop, I find a grandfather waiting with his granddaughter. I see him again when I fetch the kids. This has been the pattern for the last few years.
He is seen actively participating in his granddaughter’s activities, from morning and evening walks to attending her parent-teachers meeting, sending her for extracurricular activities to even planning her birthday party. He is admired by all. He is appreciated for making himself useful in his old age. People rave that the doting grandfather is doing his duty towards his children and grandchildren. The much-admired grandfather is also a widower, having lost his wife years ago to chronic disease. It’s also to be noted that both his son and daughter-in-law are working parents.
Every day, the onlookers appreciate his sense of duty and dedication. They say that this is how the elderly should keep themselves occupied. They should bring up their grandchildren while their children go off to work.
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