By Kamala Sarup
Millions of women give birth -one child after another. There is no respect for their health, body and feelings. For example most women give birth before the age of 18 and want only 2 or 3 births, but are not able to use family planning because of their husband's objections. Also women do not have easy access to various types of family planning facilities. In South Asia, on one hand there is poverty, and there are offsetting repeated pregnancies.
Marriage is intended to satisfy the husband and his family. Especially, husbands put psychological pressure to give birth to sons in Nepal and in India. In summary, women are risking their health because of their family.
"Kamala, since I am married, all of my happiness has gone to water. Regarding the children's issues, I cannot make any decision at home. I have been married for 5 years and I already have 4 daughters. My husband wants a son. Not having a son is making my life miserable because of the wishes of my husband and his family.
My husband is treating me like a production machine. He has no respect and love for me at all. I hate this marriage life." While Rajani Khadka was talking in Kathmandu, I saw tears in her eyes. I also told her "Marriage is not a math game, giving and taking; this is a game of human dignity."
Health centers are limited, so rural women are getting nothing from them. Rural women can hear NGO and INGO family planning news on the radio, but this does not provide a proper education. Lack of policy implementation, lack of awareness has also contributed to the problem. Majority of the women lives in rural areas and most of the village women are not getting contraceptives, so unwanted pregnancies are high in rural areas.
Very slow socio-economic development has resulted in deteriorating women's health. Even if rape or physical relations happen, women cannot tell their family, so they go for abortions, which result in 60% mortality. Women have domestic burdens as well as frequent pregnancies.
"Why women cannot choose when or whether to become pregnant," my friend Rajani further asks? Sons are more popular in Nepal. In some villages if women give birth to son her husband celebrates with a party with a slaughtered goat. However, if a girl is born there is no party and the husband cuts a pumpkin and the whole family weeps.
"When I ask my husband to use birth control, he got mad at me and said he wants son anyhow, otherwise he will be forced to marry with another woman," Rajani further told me in Kathmandu.
Women's rights means to control their own fertility. The right to family planning should be women's political and legal rights. Thus, women should struggles for their rights. They must get organized. Mass street protests for women's reproductive rights can work if done right.
It is true, women want safe methods of birth control.
Journalist and Story Writer Kamala Sarup is an editor for http://www.mediaforfreedom.com/. She is specializes in in-depth reporting and writing on peace, anti-war, women, terrorism, democracy, and development. Some of her publications are: Women's Empowerment in South Asia, Nepal (booklets); Prevention of Trafficking in Women Through Media, (book); Efforts to Prevent Trafficking in for Media Activism (media research). She has also written two collections of stories.