Today, it is very rare to find someone who will say that a woman having sex with someone she wants is ‘only her choice.’ Yes, Lifestyle, Time and Generations have passed but one thing that has not changed in India is patriarchy.
This is not an article that tells you about feminism or women equality or schooling you about the hardship women face. It is an article that shows you the reality in this country for a ‘free’ and ‘independent’ woman that we claim to have.
In 2008, Tamil Nadu banned iPill and PlanB commonly known as morning after pills. A morning after pill is used by a woman after having unprotected sex within 48 – 72 hours (based on menstruation cycle). As we all know condoms do not entirely validate safe sex, it is important for women to take extra safety measures to avoid unwanted pregnancies.
Today, in Chennai or any part of Tamil Nadu for that matter, one cannot buy iPill over the counter without a doctor’s prescription. Most of the pharmacies do not even sell these tablets as they are charged under the Provisions of Drug and Cosmetics act. N Selvaraju, the director of the State Drugs Department stated, “We are not against women’s rights, but this is a moral concern. The advertising of this drug will mean that women will think, ‘I can do anything and there is an easy way not to get pregnant’. We can’t allow such an attitude to grow.”
After his statement the #MyBodyMyChoice spread like a forest fire throughout South India. Women throughout Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry started sharing their woes. A lot of women explained their woes about getting emergency contraceptive pills in Chennai. It was then revealed that how a commonly found iPill in the smallest towns in the state without any prescription is now declining to sell them.
There is not a day that passes by without mentioning how the patriarchy in country clamps down on women’s sexual and other choices. If prohibiting the emergency contraceptive pills on the scale of it being immoral to women’s sexual choices, it indirectly puts women’s health at risk. It forces a woman to get pregnant without prior planning leading to an abortion that puts their reproductive health at risk. Not only is it harmful to reproductive health, but continuous abortions can lead to women’s ability to conceive and even put their life at risk. Emergency contraceptives, though not being the ideal measure, are considered better than abortion.
In a study released recently taken by a few college students, said that the Gynaecologists in the city claim that the abortion pills are easily available than morning-after pills. Sruthi Suresh, the student who conducted the survey said that the doctors are willing to prescribe for an abortion than to provide contraceptive medication.
It is very hard to find a contraceptive pill in the medical shops. After asking in 3 medical shops in Chennai city who denied to have any stock, Selvam who own a pharmacy in Thiruvanmiyur said that he could get the medicine if there is a doctor’s prescription. When I told him that it does not require a prescription, he said that his license might be revoked if he sells the iPill without doctor’s recommendation. Whereas in the online platforms like Amazon and Flipkart you could avail the tablet at the rate of Rs. 110 when the cost of the pill is only Rs. 35.
Doctors on Practo – the online medical consultation stated that it is available in hospitals and Gynecologists clinics. Dr. Divyapriya who runs a clinic in Besant Nagar (contacted through Practo) stated that her clinics after a check up with the patient will prescribe the Ipill which is available in her clinic pharmacy. She also said, “whatever emergency it may be, do not take it without the doctor’s consultant as the dosage of the tablets are high and with frequent intake it may harm the reproductive system.”
Now, taking the scenario of lockdown, statistics released by the Ipas Development Foundation shows 1.85 million Indian women could not terminate an unwanted pregnancy. (For the dates from March 21 – May 31). Lack of access to contraceptive pills will likely increase the number of unsafe abortions, unintended pregnancies and even vasectomy (if there is a good man out there).
With unavailability of contraception pills, women are forced to continue their unplanned pregnancy, as attempting to abortion is a risk. It likely disturbs their overall health physically and mentally which in worst case will result in mortality rates to increase.
When we all know that the sale of condoms increased during the lockdown, we will now have to wait to see the number of births next year which were unintended.