Recently, at a Government hospital for women and children at Egmore in Chennai, state health minister C Vijaya Baskar launched –Antara, a central government scheme for women. It involves contraceptive injections which can help women who want to delay or avoid pregnancies. It is even being promoted as a safe option for women.
There you go, another authority telling, rather dictating what is safe for a woman and what she must do with her body.
What’s wrong you ask? Isn’t the Centre keeping in mind the health and personal choices of women in the state. No, I am not going on a feminist rant here. Hear me out:
The Centre forgot one necessary detail about the state. Tamil Nadu believes in making its own rules, be it Jallikattu, politics or when it comes to contraception. Tamil Nadu welcoming Antara and saying no to emergency contraceptives seems a bit of a sham, doesn’t it?
Now, what would you like? To be poked and prodded every three-four months or just swallow a tablet in case of a need of an emergency contraception? Most would say tablet, but in Tamil Nadu since 2006 instead of taking the progressive route like the rest of the country, they decided to remove/ban morning-after pills from Chennai pharmacy shelves under provisions of the Drugs and Cosmetics Act.
I can list the reasons out for you, and it reeks of patriarchy and absence of common sense:
1. According this report, K Sundrasamy, director of drugs control said: "These pills contain levonorgestrel, a hormone used to prevent pregnancy after unprotected sex. While the strength of the over-the-counter product was fixed at 0.1 mg, the products in the market were above 0.75 mg. We wanted them relabelled as prescription or schedule H drugs and disallowed their sale as over-the-counter drugs.”
2. Police, women's commissions and NGOs wanted to ban the products since they believed it promoted free sex.
3. The 2006 Director of Drugs Control, N Selvaraju responded to protests over ban of ECPs by saying, “We are not against women’s rights, but this is a moral concern. The advertising of this drug will mean that women will think, ‘I can do anything, and there is an easy way not to get pregnant’. We can’t allow such an attitude to grow.”
To Mr Selvaraju, here’s an explainer to clear your confusion over emergency pills and abortion pills. iPills, Plan B etc are morning-after pills which when taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex or contraception failure, can help to prevent pregnancy. It also depends on which stage of the menstrual cycle a woman is in. In case she is already pregnant emergency contraception cannot stop or terminate a pregnancy.
Abortion pills, on the other hand, results in a termination of a pregnancy and is only used after pregnancy is established. People fail to realise that establishment of a pregnancy takes several days and is not completed until a fertilised egg has implanted in the lining of the woman's uterus. Those against the emergency contraception believe that this pill prevents implantation of a fertilised egg. It is basically impossible for an emergency contraception to prevent a pregnancy which has not happened as yet.
So to those who agree with Selvaraju, here’s an easier way women can stop getting pregnant – not have sex with morons who think like you. It would be a big service to the nation.
And to those who have been going on about free sex, to these people I say : Women are allowed to have sex of their free will and if they do not have the ‘chance’ to, then it means a compulsion and being forced to produce children or undergo a complicated pregnancy is in violation of a woman’s rights.
Now that we have got the difference out of the way, let us take a look at what this ‘confusion/misinformation’ has caused women in the state. In 2008 itself, this report claims that unplanned pregnancies and abortions were on the rise in the state. Why? No prizes for guessing – non availability of ECPs!
Offering a lollipop of an injective contraception does not, in any manner reduce the horrible tales of pain, loss and sadness countless women have had to encounter as a result of non-availability a ready method of protecting themselves. Has one thought of what chances women who are raped have to prevent unwanted pregnancies- Nil because an emergency contraception is not available to them.
There you have it; another means for people to dictate what a woman must or must not do. What she can do with her body, when she needs to bear children and what she must do exercise her ‘free will’.