Touria Prayag's Blog

l’express Weekly June 1 2012

Posted in Uncategorized by touriaprayag on June 1, 2012

A small step for womankind

A deal, even a bad one, is better than a disaster. And that is what the debate – gradually being watered down – taking place at the national assembly around the criminal code amendment bill is about. It certainly does not amount to liberating women. It does not give them the sovereignty over their bodies which elsewhere no one questions any more. It does not give them the choice to decide on the number of children they can afford to have, which is something taken for granted for other women in countries not so far away from ours. It simply opens a small window for a few traumatized young girls which society has not been able to protect from predators, to lead semi- decent lives by getting rid of the constant reminder of an objectionable act of sexual aggression and joining their more fortunate mates on the school benches and playgrounds. That’s all we are talking about.

While the debate within the national assembly does us proud; while our parliamentarians have risen above party politics, put their differences aside and given an example of what a living democracy is about; while even those opposing the bill have expressed their views respectfully, though the statistics given and the studies quoted would have been hilarious under other circumstances, outside parliament, the hyperactivity which has started to surround the debate around this bill is hard to understand and is symptomatic of what happens when a light breeze, not exactly an icy draught, runs through the insulated corridors of an inward- looking country run by religious lobbies and dogmas.

The opponents of this bill went out for the kill. And they were not going to let a few facts get in the way. The slogans they have been spouting show a great mastery of vitriol. Heavy on accusations but short on specifi cs, they have even used children in the fi ght. All these children with various disabilities who would not have lived had the pro- choice had it their way… And, the fi nale… the threat of hunger strikes.

A healthy debate is a focused, intellectually- honest one. There is nothing whatsoever in this bill which would prevent the children with disabilities brandishing the placards their parents have crafted for them from being born and leading happy lives. The mothers who chose to keep the malformed foetuses will continue to be admired for their courage and commended for their choices. However, we must be rational enough to understand that there may be mothers who do not live in the ideal circumstances which would allow them to give a child with a serious disability the care required.

We must be compassionate enough to understand that some, not all of these mothers, may choose to sacrifi ce a 14- week zygote to be able to give the other children she has the best opportunities she can afford in life.

The proposed bill is about these women who have to work long and tiring hours and bring up their children on their own. It is about young girls who have been robbed of their childhood by monsters and who are having their noses rubbed in it every day of their lives. It is about allowing young girls and underprivileged women to have normal lives after traumatic experiences.

The position taken by most of our representatives from all political parties is a moment of pride for the country. A bill which is about justice has to, and will, go through. Otherwise, it will come back to hurt us.

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