On the 8th of March, 2020, women from all over Pakistan came forth to march for basic human rights, out of many placards, the most widely represented and discussed popular slogan in media was “Mera Jism Meri Marzi”, which translates to “My body, My choice”. The slogan gain attention due to various cases of harassment and abortion reported in 2019, abortions specially related to girl child in the womb, thus the term ‘female foeticide’. In most cases, men without any consent took the decision to abort the girl child. According to Edhi foundation, in 2017 only 375 girl bodies were found in Capital Territory Islamabad, imagine the plight in rural areas all across Pakistan. This is an alarming situation.
According to Dawn Aurora, television viewership of local channels range from 1.8 to 2.3 hours in rural and urban areas across Pakistan. This puts huge responsibility on Pakistan Electronic Media Regulation Authority (PEMRA) to highlight the importance of law and order and to give the information related to ‘abortion’ cases. An uneducated woman from rural Sindh could be informed of her basic right according to Pakistan Penal Code while watching a drama serial on Geo or Hum TV in local language. Various Pakistani dramas that show situations on induced abortion cases but the only thing that follows is the some camera action of the couple sobbing for the lost unborn child.
According to Pakistan Penal Code, abortion is illegal in Pakistan until it is either a rape case or if it involves saving the life of pregnant woman. There are two articles on abortion, both of which involves going to jail for extended periods of time and paying a fine. Article 338 is titled “Isqat-i-Haml”, this deal with abortion of unborn child whose organs are not formed, either with consent or without consent of the pregnant women and involves the imprisonment term that extends up to three years. Article 338-B is titled “Isqat-i-Janin” and deals with abortion of an unborn child whose organs are formed, this article calls for imprisonment of up to seven years. Honestly, speaking I have never witnessed any seen in Pakistani drama or movie where the culprit is afraid the mentioned imprisonment term or the woman standing up for her legal rights in front of her in laws or her husband.
The countrywide viewership could raise this issue of concern and help achieve Pakistan’s commitment to “2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals” that Pakistan signed in 2015. Goal# 3 titled “Good Health and Well Being” and Goal#5 titled “Reduced inequalities”, both of these goals call for amongst other health measures, voicing concerns for unsafe abortions. According to United Nations Health Agency, some 25 million unsafe abortions happen each year. Pakistan, being the developing country needs a lot of improvement in its policy structure, there is a wide need for women to speak up for their rights. 49.2% population of Pakistan is women and the right to basic human rights like “abortion” backed by Pakistan Penal Code is a necessity to pull economic growth upward.
by: Noor Al Ain