Here’s a judgment I agree with, because it implies that a wife is a partner, not a baby-making machine.
‘In a significant decision, the Punjab and Haryana High Court last week ruled that the right to abort a pregnancy in a marriage rests with the wife and not husband.
“A woman is not a machine in which raw material is put and a finished product comes out. She should be mentally prepared to conceive, continue the same and give birth to a child. The unwanted pregnancy would naturally affect the mental health of the pregnant woman…” said the court.
Stressing that marital intimacy between a couple does not automatically translate to the woman’s consent to child bearing, Justice Jitendra Chauhan said, “Mere consent to conjugal rights does not mean consent to give birth to a child for her husband.”’ [Link] Thanks for the link Brown Vagabond.
I wish this judgment and what it conveys was understood by families of women like Sita. (All names changed)
A friend (and a social worker) told me about this woman in her twenties who lives in a village in Haryana.
Sita’s parents had first arranged her marriage into a family where she worked all day and wasn’t given enough food.That marriage did not last. When the parents arranged a second marriage for her, their biggest worry was that she may not conceive because her first husband had raped her violently.
In her new home she works all day, but she is given enough food to eat and her husband is kind to her. (Although my fried noticed that Sita has not even seen the local market, because the family does not believe in their daughters in law stepping out of the house).
Now she is pregnant and her mother in law took her to a city hospital where they said since she is the ‘size of a ten year old girl‘, she must have a caesarean section in the eighth month, although the baby is growing well and there are no other complications. Sita’s mother in law, Kaushalya is excited about raising a second grand child.
Kaushalya has raised the child of her first daughter in law too. This little boy has little attachment to his mother, who my friend was told, is a bad mother. My friend shopped for gifts for this mother in law saying this would make them treat Sita kindly. She was excited about meeting them but came back disappointed, because Sita is so stressed, she fears she might miscarry.
Sita is worried that she won’t be allowed to take care of her baby, her mother in law believes her ‘age and experience’ make her better qualified for caring for this child. (Sita is expected to cook, clean, wash the family’s clothes etc). Sita’s husband, though kind to her, is an obedient son. Sita is also upset because he will not be with her during or after the baby’s birth. Kaushalya told my friend he is the most devoted of all her sons.
This is not one rare story. Take a look at the pregnant woman in this advertisement. In another case the daughter in law was sent to her parents’ home as a punishment for general incompetence, and the mother in law raised the grandchild. This daughter in law was called back when the family started arranging a marriage for the second son.
I have blogged about another set of grand parents who raised the grand child, because the mother was only good enough to give birth, here ‘Better than mothers?‘