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The Non-Existent Existence

The UN has shocked the Global Community by claiming that around 50% of women and girls in 57 countries around the world do not own their bodies!

According to a Study Report prepared by the UN Population Fund, titled My Body is My Own, women are facing different sorts of restrictions on what they can do with their bodies, like having sex, using contraceptives or seeking health care, throughout the Globe. In a rare first, the Sexual and Reproductive Health Agency of the World Body has addressed the bodily autonomy of women, listing attacks on women in 57 countries. These attacks range from rape to forced sterilisation to virginity tests and genital mutilation. Authors of the Study have said that they stressed mainly on restrictions on women “deciding what to do with their bodies without fear of violence or a decision from someone else on their physical integrity”.

The UN Population Fund (formerly the UN Fund for Population Activities or UNFPA) has issued a statement, saying: “This lack of bodily autonomy has massive implications beyond the profound harms to individual women and girls: potentially depressing economic productivity, undercutting skills, and resulting in extra costs to health care and judicial systems.” The Study Report has been prepared after examining various documents on laws or policies providing for thorough sex education, provided by only 56% of the countries.

Talking to the media a couple of days ago, UNFPA Director Natalia Kanem said: “The fact that nearly half of women still cannot make their own decisions about whether or not to have sex, use contraception or seek health care should outrage us all.” She went on stating: “For many people, but especially women and girls, life is fraught with losses to bodily integrity and autonomy linked to a lack of agency in making their own decisions. These losses manifest when a lack of contraceptive choices leads to unplanned pregnancy.” The Director quoted the Study as mentioning: “They result from terrible bargains where unwanted sex is exchanged for a home and food. They run through, such as female genital mutilation and child marriage. They arise when people with diverse sexual orientations and gender identities cannot walk down a street without fearing assault or humiliation.

The Study has further listed 20 countries or territories where there are laws, allowing a rapist to marry the victim in order to escape criminal charges! It also listed 43 countries, which do not have laws governing rape in married couples or marital rape, stating that more than 30 countries have imposed restrictions on women’s movements outside their home, so far…

The UNFPA Study has re-established the fact that Masculinity and Gender Inequality at every level of Power Structure, like Family, Society and State, are responsible for this situation. This divisiveness makes women weak and their bodies defensive. It also encourages the Patriarchal Society to consider the female bodies as the property of men! According to Kanem, women have been victims of Gender Inequality since childhood. At every stage of their upbringing, their bodies become the topic of discussion and criticism. Their look, clothing, make-up, etc., become yardsticks to measure their character. This way, the Society makes a woman to understand her body is a great responsibility, a liability and a shame, but it is the responsibility of a man to take care of her body! Slowly, women start believing that their physical pleasures are driven by men, and even decisions related to pregnancy are also made by men.

The UNFPA Study has not only shown the Gender Inequality, but also highlighted the inactivity of the State and Judiciary in preventing this inequality. The Constitution of each and every country recognises Women’s Rights… however, only 75% of those women are capable of enjoying their Legal Rights. Interestingly, the economic prosperity of a State has no relation with the enactment of laws sympathetic toward the female body. The so-called poor countries, like Cambodia and Mozambique, have taken various steps to ensure that Men and Women have equal access to Sex, Education and Health Care, while in the rest of the world, women are Incorporeal.

Although it is mentioned more than often that Gender Equality is not only a Fundamental Human Right, but a necessary foundation for a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable world, as well; we get to experience through a survey report, titled Human Development Report 2020: The Next Frontier Human Development and the Anthropocene (released on December 15, 2020), that India had dropped two spots to 131 out of 189 countries on the Human Development Index (HDI). The South Asian Nation had ranked 129 on HDI in 2019 and 130 in 2018.

It had been mentioned in details that with a total HDI value of 0.645, India was placed in the Medium Human Development group alongside nations, like Iraq, Bhutan, Ghana, Nepal and Cambodia. Countries, such as Sri Lanka, Maldives, Vietnam and China, were part of the High Human Development group. Malaysia and Japan made it to the Very High Human Development list. The report stated that India had a life expectancy of 69.7 years in 2019, while that of Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan was 72.6, 70.8 and 71.8 years, respectively. Again, it is not supposed to be a matter for the Indians to rejoice when it was mentioned in the report that Nepal and Bangladesh ranked below India, at 142 and 133 spots, respectively; while Pakistan was placed at 154.

UNFPA Table

Adding to the situation that it further depicted India as a country that was placed at the 123rd position in the Gender Inequality Index, the Labour Force Participation Rate of women in the country being 20.5%, while it was 76.1% for men, with only 13.5% women holding seats in the Parliament. The situation has not shown any drastic improvement since then. The onus solely lies on the people now as regards their willingness to usher in a Change!

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