Thursday, January 6, 2011

I am pro-choice!

In the third quarter of 2010, France banned Islamic face-coverings: burqa and niqab. I was in England at the time for a literary festival. That particular weekend, I happened to stay with a couple, dear friends, who happened to be of different faiths. The guy was Hindu while the girl was Muslim. Both the guy and I like (kinda worship) our French, red wines.

Anyway, perfect wine, good music, and awesome food led to a debate over France’s decision. I felt that in contemporary France, secularism was a farce—if they implemented such a draconian law where women couldn’t cover their bodies. Selective secularism to suit their convenience is how I interpreted France’s policy. Didn’t France, at one time, encourage Moroccans and Algerians to migrate (more like bring them over as slaves) to their country? Today, the nation with Europe’s largest Muslim minority feared the same people because they didn’t need them?

My friend’s husband presented an, opposing but very valid, argument: Given the mayhem in the world, he understood where the backlash was coming from. Public officials and lawmakers believed they had to implement the law for security reasons.

While the two of us drowned in our conversation, my friend said something pertinent. She agreed with both our viewpoints. On one hand, she understood her husband’s concern about security; on the other, she got the human rights issue I was ranting about. But she raised one question: Did anyone ask these women what they wanted?

In December 2010, I read about Ireland’s ban on abortion. The article was about three Irish women, who were forced to travel abroad to terminate their pregnancy because abortion was outlawed in Ireland in 1861 and can bring a sentence of life imprisonment. These women actually turned to the European court of human rights.

One of these ladies was a recovering alcoholic and substance abuser. The second woman got pregnant while undergoing chemotherapy. All of them feared for the safety of their unborn. I believe the cancer patient finally got an okay from the Irish government. But not the other two.

Apparently thousands of women travel from Ireland to England to get abortions done. And if they can’t afford to spend that money, they seek unqualified help. We all know how that must end.

Despite whatever the Catholic Church says, how could these single mothers take care of kids when they themselves weren’t fit for it? Both mentally and physically! Are we okay with orphans or sick children or even unwanted kids roaming the streets? And we can obliterate the rights of the living?

I am not looking at getting into arguments that define “human life.” And the rights of an unborn child. Or what God intended. If we are taking that path, I can tell you God would consider humanity over religion. If anything, humanity should be every single person’s first and foremost religion. Being pro-choice is not being pro-abortion.

About six months ago I was in a classroom, on the west coast, with fellow poets. I can’t recollect how, but we started to talk about burqa. Two of my classmates (One American and the other Canadian – both Muslim women), shared their two bits with the rest of us who didn’t grow up in an Islamic Community.

The American found the burqa derogatory to women. She saw it as a sign of oppression. She thought of it as another one of those many things man invented to express his superiority over women. She alluded to the burqa as being a prison for any woman. But the Canadian lady felt there was a romantic and soft element attached to the notion of covering your face. Or even your body. She found the garb feminine. And felt it gave women more power—they chose whom they wanted to really “see.”

When I left the classroom that day, I realized that as non-Muslims, we have all had opinions on burqa. But most of us never considered asking a woman, who was born in that religion, what she thought of it. Was wearing or not wearing ever her own choice?

All I am saying is that I am pro-choice; be it wearing a burqa or getting your pregnancy terminated. Shouldn’t a woman be able given that choice of a decision? Shouldn’t women be given the opportunity to take care of their own lives? The world cannot become a better place if women's voices and choices aren't heard. Isn’t lack of choice a breach of human rights?

More until next time,


Copyright © 01.06.2011

“Women are the only oppressed group in our society that lives in intimate association with their opressors” ~Evelyn Cunningham

1 comment:

S said...

Another great one, Sweta!!! I am pro-choice, absolutely :)