Analysis of the Debating Surrounding Abortion as a Part of the Cultural Politics of Reproduction
Every society has its own beliefs regarding the pre-established notions regarding the birth, life cycle and death of individuals. However, external influences often sway relative changes that have the potential of making drastic changes. A similar external force is the political set up of a country, which generally tends to alter the socially established norms of birth control. A desired cultural influence on the society can be easily done by manipulating the accessible birth patterns and by controlling the birth mortality rates. Various government agencies in both, developing and developed countries, have been testified to work over this concern.
The selective gender politics has been clear in cultural politics of eastern nations and subsequent power relations make key implications around the gender theory. Still, there are some cultural impacts that are intentionally imposed upon the society, so as to create a desired demographic setup. In Asian countries, namely, India and China, the political control over human reproduction has always been intensely affected on both, micro and macro scales, changing the entire social demography (Bhat and Zavier 2003, pp.644). Similarly, the cultural control over reproductive results, specifically in case of abortion politics, has been the key element of Biopolitics and Biopower in India.
This essay will exhibit a set of cultural and anthropological approaches about identifying the underlying cultural politics and its subsequent impacts, behind the prevalent abortion practices in India. The essay will incorporate possible causes and their consequent effects, behind the biopolitical control over cultural politics of reproduction, with respect to India.
Abortions have been known even since ancient times, when people used so-called abortive plants for avoiding pregnancy. An act of abortion has always been considered as a murder, because the people’s consciousness does not distinguish a mature man from the embryo. Over the time, people started treating abortion as a morally neutral phenomenon, just like smoking. There was an appalling movement by the supporters of abortion, claiming that the world and its views on morality have changed. And it became an axiomatic belief to deem abortion as a crime. Their main argument concluded that every woman has the right to control her own body and do whatever she wants; hence no one should interfere and manipulate this personal decision. On the contrary, supporters of the movement claimed that embryo is an entity which does not have an independent life. The embryo is a piece of flesh, which offshoots from the mother's body, so morality has nothing to do in deciding the crime underlying abortion. The biggest question nowadays stays as follows: does embryo have its own autonomous life? As an example, the debates around abortion in India will be analyzed.
The most disputable issue, in Indian context, is the actual reason for abortion. The factors which lead to the abortive actions are not overtly expressed. The main reason of this ambiguity is low sense of responsibility towards the female population uphold in Indian society. A few cases of abortions have been found relying on lack of decisive energy, to meet the obligations behind upbringing of unplanned child. An unplanned and unclaimed pregnancy situation is often validated by an abortion. The teenage mothers are left with no other option, but to avail abortions for keeping up with their social image.
Abortions its anthropological rationale in Indian society
The Indian states have been witnessing gender selective abortion as a key phenomenon, which has been severely implemented across the rural, urban and all other socioeconomic major segments of the Indian society (Dagar 2007, pp.100). In Indian culture, in order to understand this intricate and contextually cultural issue of abortion, one needs to understand the rural kinship practices, dowry practices and the low social significance granted to women. All above factors when impacted by the Biopolitical intervention lead to cultural inclination behind expecting a male child, rather than a female child.
The above mentioned factors determine the role of individual decision’s for accepting or aborting a foetus. The underlying base of cultural politics has a premeditated focus on patriarchal beliefs and centralization of authority towards males in Indian society. The role of government, in deciding the various regulatory and preventive measures against the abortion practices, is also a significant driver of current day challenges in Indian society. Thus a significant gap in gender ratio has been noteworthy in case of Indian social demographic structure (Dagar 2007, pp. 100).
Personhood behind abortion and link to Biopolitical model in India
The female population has been severely lower than that of males in Indian states. The prime cause for this disproportion owes to selective abortions. In India, and in many other Asian countries, boys are given preference since they are assumed to be anthropologically superior to females in running the hard course of earning livelihood. This is the root for shaping the current bio political model and personhood behind the currently prevalent status of abortions in India. Females in families are forced to undergo gender detection and since the baby's gender can be determined only in the second quarter of pregnancy, abortions are executed at a rather later stage of pregnancy. Since the females have no say in deciding the abortion and selective abortions are carried out by private clinics; thereby avoiding government intervention and even most of them are done at home, in the villages (Banerjee 2003, pp. 174). The biopolitical model presumes girls to be unfit for successfully taking ahead the dynasties. The political parties address the safe acceptance of such abortion decisions for major social access and confirm their right o garner vote banks. The above influence of intended political intervention for administering and optimizing over vital traits of human life, namely fertility, mortality and quality, frames the Biopolitics in India (Duggal 2004, 132).
Biopolitics & Biopower: Indian context
Historically, Indian society has eventually perceived abortion as a mode of maintaining the ratio of rising female populations in the country, thereby ensuring maximum stretch and access of power to the patriarchal form of governance. Although, initially, this practice was more dominant in the upper-class and those of Indian warrior ccommunities, who intentionally devalued women by reducing their demographic presence, still, with the evolution of Indian society (as a developing nation) there followed a deeper percolation of the female infanticide and female abortion scenarios in almost all the segments of society. Contemporarily, the gradual rise and enhanced access to the scientific methods of gender detection technology, has added to the already mounting status of sex-selective abortions.
On the contrary, the current day Indian society sees sex-selection and its prenatal determination, as a fundamental practice to reduce the currently implemented infanticide decisions which are used and intended for regulating the female population.
As per the report based on a study conducted by the Indian Institute for Development and Communication, each family in the Indian state of Haryana, which has reckoned sex-selective abortion practices , was found to avail a specific pre natal test for confirming gender detection and testing (Pintchman 2004, pp. 26). So, every two gender detection tests have resulted in loss of one girl, consequent of a sex-selective abortion. In fact, foetus stage in life cycle of an Indian woman is the riskiest part for her sustenance , as every seventh girl gets aborted prior to its birth , just because of their gender (Pintchman 2004, pp. 24).
Cultural politics: Role of political parties, Legislative bodies, and Religion
The use of unsafe abortions has been rampant in Indian rural socities. The country has calibrated a total count of 6.5 million cases of abortion, in the year 2008. Out of these, more than 66% were registered to be unsafe, leading to severe health conditions and high mortality rates. Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal detection Act, incorporated in the 1994 resulted in criminalizing the prenatal gender detection and consequent decision of female foeticide. Thereby, declaring it illegal for Indian nationals to opt for detection, determination or disclosure of gender for the foetus to either the patient or her family. In spite of strict imposition by the government and supervisory intrusion by the WHO agencies, this act has been very loosely implemented by the concerned supervisory authorities, specifically in rural and remotely urban areas.
In the year 2008, India has also registered the biggest regional share, in entire south and central Asia’s pool of abortion cases, of attaining 6.5 million out of total 10.5 million. The prominent Pre-natal gender detection processes like Medical Ultrasonography, have been rapidly used to determine sex of the foetus.
The cultural politics has demeaned the social gender ratio as daughters are less preferred to sons, owing to their mandatory obligation for dowry. Therefore, gender-selective abortion has been rampant in India which has been internationally connoted as Gendercide. The mal-effects of this Gendercide has been resulting in lopsided male to female population ratio, as every year in India, almost 5 to 6 millions of developing female foetus are getting exterminated prior to their birth(Barge, Bracken,Kumar and Camlin 2004, pp. 33). as per the earlier mentioned Pre-Natal Detection act, aimed to regulate and prevent the abuse of technology, the following acts are recognizable as stern penal action drawing scenarios:
A medical practitioner or a radiologist conducting, aiding in or helping for detecting gender by using the Pre-Natal Diagnostic tests , in process of determining the sex
A voluntary or involuntarily imposed decision of sex selection or gender discrimination in controlling, regulating or aborting the birth
Act of circulation of any form of communication via any form of media, or via social access to medical professionals or pharmaceutical companies, regarding the access or availability of gender determination and sex selection techniques, in any form of product, metrical or technology.
Consequently, if found guilty over violation of any of the above mentioned situations, the alleged and accomplice are prone to 3 years of confinement with a monetary fine of Rs. 10,000 and also for a 5 years imprisonment and a monetary fine of Rs. 50,000 for a concerned offence from any of medical service providers, against norms affirmed by the law. So if the intensity and severity of the crime is found punishable, the consequent jurisdiction may fall within the given range of imprisonment and monetary fine (Banerjee 2003, pp. 174).
Consequences of the Cultural politics of reproduction
The prevalent partiality towards preferring male child over female child, when coupled with advanced techniques to determine gender of infant (prior to its birth) has resulted in extremely disastrous consequences. More causes, like those of low economic situation from agricultural toil to match with social dowries practices, have been duly documented by various surveying agencies. In most of the states, the males are devoid of adequate female companions for marital prospects.
Still, a number of issues have lead to the gradually decreasing gender ratios in India. Firstly, the financial facilities required for upbringing girls are same as those of boys, still the financial expense on them turns out to be primary cause for the abortion decision (Gupta 2005, pp.530). The local politics influences the upcoming breed of males to cater to their patronage and hereditary traits. Although cultural values are too rigid and equally abstract to be monitored in census facts, still a statistically important association can be sought between the count of girls born in a region and the consecutive share of votes gained over by the religious parties in a given region. This result will clearly explain why the political influence over sex-selective abortion has been based upon anthropological preferences. However, it can definitely be explained that, both, votes gained by a specific religious party and the social urge to have a male child, are ultimate wishes of an extremely bull-headed state of mind. This is also one of the key reasons that in spite of various efforts to lead towards development, India is still a developing country (Gupta 2006, pp.330).
Economic influencers are centered on the cost and advantage of raising boys over those of girls. In Indian culture, women conventionally turn out to be a docile part of their husband’s family and are not anticipated to have a say in the financial hold of their parents. The need for sons is based on an optimistic expectation for raising the economic standards of their parents’ lifestyle, as in stead of spending on dowry, they can extract it.
So, the Indian society’s worst devil, Dowry, inflicts a second straight and important cost on the future bride’s parents. Even though it has been illegal, there are adequate anecdotal facts to hold up the finale that dowry remittances are not only heavily priced but also constitute a sad financial burden over the lives of bride’s parents .
The Indian society has already been marred of its evolutionary growth to the rising cultural politics of gender discrimination, selective abortions, subsequent gender ratio imbalances creation and the consequent impact over lopsided social status attribution to males in the society (Banerjee 2003, pp.174). Extreme female social devaluation and abruptly low social status allocations have now been worsened by ease of access to the advanced technologies, which can confirm the decision of selective gender based abortion. The influence of Biopolitics and intended allocation of Biopower have decentralized the role of family members and pregnant women to execute their decisive abilities over the choice of sustenance of their forthcoming child (Pintchman 2004, pp.24).
Abortion debate is a discussion about the moral and legal status of abortion. There are two opinions about this process, which are poles apart. The first group is concerned about feminism and tells about females’ choice to do whatever they want with their life and health. The second group considers abortion to be a sin. In India, cultural factors decide each group’s influence on public opinion. In Indian case, the abortion case is really intricate, since there are more female child abortion rather than male ones. Certainly, today humans have better medicine, better lives and smaller amount of problem. Abortion is clearly an act of murder, allowing one human to destroy the future, to destroy another.
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