Awareness, Feminism | Posted by Jaded16 on 03/3/2010

Someone Needs To Take The Negative PR Off Of Abortion’s back

abortion in India: not everybody feels this way

abortion in India: not everybody feels this way

As I was reading this post on “Abortion Doulas” I got to thinking about being pro-choice, abortion in general and about abortion in India in particular (as this is where I live). Out here, we tend to look at abortion as something shameful, disgusting, a thing to keep under wraps. No “good Indian” girl ever gets an abortion. If she does, people whisper about her in hushed tones for what she did was indeed disgusting. Interestingly, this is the attitude for abortion only for single women, unwed mothers etc. Within the sanctity of marriage, many women are forced to abort their unborn female fetuses. That isn’t entirely looked down upon. In fact, aborting the girl child is seen as the only solution.

Most T.V ads and posters somehow play on the ‘guilt factor’ while marketing their product. Contraceptive pills, ads for abortion, ads that raise awareness for HIV/AIDS or venereal diseases always have an undercurrent of guilt. Especially if the ad is female oriented.
Even ad companies who make the contraceptive ads (supposedly in favor of female empowerment) show this bias. Take these two ad films for example:

1) This one was aired first. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Hindi, the lady at the end of the video suggests to take the i-pill so that one may avoid an abortion. The ad seems to market the product smoothly enough. I’d like you to observe the expression on the young girl’s face. Each second of this film asserts that aborting a child is WRONG. I ask, why is it so?

2) The second film is a little less negative. This lady advises her daughter on the phone to take the i-pill so as to avoid a pregnancy. What she also says is, “If you’re pregnant, we’ll have to go for an abortion”. See here, the word abortion is used as a threat. If you don’t take the i-pill, we’ll have to abort the child. Now the daughter wouldn’t want that, would she?

On the other hand, ads for male contraception i.e. condoms are always erotic and sensual in nature. Somehow this Ad seems to be reassuring the man the using contraception isn’t going to rob him of his masculinity. See this one for instance. Forget the White neighborhood or the fact that some men weren’t Indian; just wait for the jackpot at the end of the commercial.

While Betty Friedan can cry herself hoarse chanting “Abortion is a woman’s civil right”, we will still continue to look at abortion as a sin. In the light of today’s grim realities of female feticides and girl child murders these words definitely mean squat to the Indian culture. I need to go find an oven to put my head in now.

~ Jaded16

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  • RebJ @ at 12:03 pm, March 3rd, 2010

    Thank you for this post. I am Indian myself, and am always pleased to read about feminist issues from a perspective other than the western/american side. I have some disorganized thoughts in my head:

    These ads definitely not feminist-friendly, but I’ll admit they don’t shock me in anyway. There are huge double standards in Indian culture, and this is just one manifestation of that. The women’s contraception ads are oriented around family, guilt, panic. The men’s contraception ads are oriented around glamour, pleasure, sex.

    Then again, these two types of contraception (morning-after pill vs condom) are not exactly polar opposites which can compared fairly (as opposed to, say diaphragm vs. condom). This contraception pill is “plan B” and even ads for similar products in the u.s. depict situations of panic and worry (not as outspokenly condemning abortion as these ads, but subtly nonetheless).

    Also, I think opinions on abortion are personal and subjective anywhere in the world you go. There are pro-life and pro-choice people who both think abortion is a “sin” and are opposed to having one themselves; the difference is that one group advocates projecting this personal opinion onto everyone, while the other does not. We can’t persuade people to think that abortion is/is not a sin, but we can support the idea that each woman should have the choice to form that opinion on their own.

    Lastly, I think its interesting the way that abortion is vilified differently in the U.S. and in India. In the U.S., people, men and women alike, (generally Christian, conservatives) are outspoken in condemning abortion as “sin” in the religious sense. On the other hand, these ads you have posted make me think that abortion is quietly but strongly disapproved of in India because it is a public shame, unhidden proof a woman’s sexual “immorality”. (Until you get pregnant, you can have sex discreetly all you want).

    Anyway, thanks for posting this!

  • Toongrrl @ at 5:56 pm, March 3rd, 2010

    Good point. I think we still struggle for ways to react to a friend’s abortion. Here’s a controversial morning-after-pill commercial for you

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  • Matt @ at 3:16 pm, March 4th, 2010

    I liked this piece. Interesting and well written. Though I’m not fully convinced as to why is abortion a sin in India, I think this article does show real perspective. Good work Jaded16 whoever you are.

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