Vithika Yadav Talks About Abortion Rights In India, The Stigma Attached To It, And Its Implications
- IWB Post
- July 23, 2019
Ahead of Global Day of Action for Access to Safe and Legal Abortion, Love Matters launched India’s first 360/VR film on safe and legal abortion titled I Am Not Alone.
IWB thus reached out to Vithika Yadav of Love Matters to discuss the issues pertaining to abortion rights in India, the stigma attached to abortion, its implications, and the film I Am Not Alone.
We opened the conversation by talking about the strength of the abortions laws in the country, Vithika said, “One of the biggest issues is that the laws take into consideration only married couple and incidences of contraception failures as legible cases on abortion. Thus owing to the law, unmarried girls cannot access abortion. This is why, many a time to avoid stigma and judgment, unmarried girls wear mangal sutra or put in sindoor before going to a gynecologist or, even worse, go for unsafe and illegal abortion.”
I Am Not Alone approaches stigma on three levels: personal, community, and institutional. Through personal narratives of real people, it brings out the abortion journeys that different women have been through.
Vithika explains, “The idea of abortion can trigger very strong emotions and feelings. It is a difficult issue owing to conflicting opinions on the same. The film talks about how, despite all the conflicts, confusions, and perceptions, it remains an essential reproductive right for all women alike.”
The film incorporates important touch points and the role that one’s partner, friends, family, and the doctor play in the journey. “These are the important people who form our support network and decide if the entire experience is going to be good or bad for an individual,” explains Vithika.
Internal stigma can be extremely powerful and have a very strong hold on an individual. “Our film tries to change the narrative through Mehek’s journey who seeks an abortion in the film. In the film, we explore what happens when your family, your partner, and the doctor support you through the process,” says Vithika.
There are so many women who die because of illegal abortion practices. She explains, “It is an important medical issue. Family, doctors, and society are all shareholders in the process and we want to share how women need to be understood and supported for their reproductive choices.”
The implications of the stigma that comes with it are as treacherous as the stigma itself. Vithika helps us look into the depth and the implications of the stigma, “The stigma harms one mentally, physically, and emotionally. It makes it even more difficult for the women to access their rights. All of this happens despite the fact that abortion is legal because of the stigma that is attached to it.”
She adds, “This also happens because everyone wants to have an opinion on the reproductive choice of women. The stigma is further strengthened by myths like it makes difficult to conceive after abortion or the mentality that you are killing a living being.”
The time when a woman seeks an abortion is one of the most sensitive times of her life. The guilt and shame just make the things even more extreme.
The guilt and shame are actually deeply rooted in our society and since we are all a product of our environments we absorb what’s fed to us. For instance, Vithika shares, “Till date, I still have very strong emotions about it and still feel it’s a very sensitive issue.”
Thus, the film also explores the internalised guilt or stigma of an individual that she is made to feel because of the surrounding environment. “There are stigmas that mandate for a woman to be a mother and there are stigmas that make her feel guilty make her feel like she is “killing another life,”” she shares.
If you go to the Love Matters YouTube channel, you can access videos made during the research work for I Am Not Alone. Here is a video that Vithika shares touched her the most:
‘Are you mad?’ Namit shouted on Ridhi, when she told him that she was going with Shweta to support her during an abortion. Ridhi was torn – help her best friend or listen to her boyfriend?. What would you do? Kya Doge Saath? – Ridhi, 29, works with a media house in Delhi.