Illegal Ban on Emergency Contraceptives In Tamil Nadu, Under The Pretext Of Moral Policing

Tamil Nadu a state that claims to be more progressive than any other in our country. A state which has a female chief minister for more than two decades, yet the living standards and condition of females living there is still pretty grim. And what seems more ironic is cities like Madurai, Tanjore, Vellore and Salem have been selected to be promoted as “smart cities” and have been considered as one of the safest city in India with Chennai apparently being the health capital of India as well.

“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.” 

This quote is from a recent report by Scroll, which rightfully went viral, and is by N Selvaraju, who was Director of the Department of Drug Control in Tamil Nadu when emergency contraceptives were forcefully seized from pharmacies in the state. The report spoke of the woes of a person trying to search for emergency contraceptive pills in Chennai. It revealed how the commonly-found i-pill, which is available in the smallest towns of India without a prescription or any questions, is denied to the women of a state which claims to be one of India’s most progressive regions.

Many articles have been written in the same notion of this ill-defined ban. One of which question the moral integrity of our society, in 2008 the senior obstetrician-gynaecologist Dr Jayashree Gajaraj, president of the Obstetrics and Gynaecology Society of South India in 2008-2009, said “Three years ago, when the product was just launched in the market, we told women that there was a revolution in the offing. Today, many women are aware of the option, but they don’t have access to the pill.”

N Selvaraju, director of drug control in Tamil Nadu at the time and gave in to the demands of the “protesters”,says, “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.” The present members of The Drugs Control Administration, Tamil Nadu can be found here. “Moral concern”, mind you  – not clinical, not psychological, not even rational. It is simply patriarchal.

In-spite of having a female Chief Minister in the state, Tamil Nadu’s govt. still feel the need to put a ban under the pretext of moral policing rather than protecting the honor and freedom of women in the state,  the state’s drug controller confiscated stocks of emergency contraceptive pills worth ₹50 lakh from Chennai’s pharmacies. This action by the Directorate of Drug Control was in response to “protests” by groups like Responsible Parents Forum and the Satvika Samuga Sevakar Sangam, which blatantly called a woman’s right to not get pregnant “loss of morality.”

However, In the recent  report by The Times of India suggests that there has been a huge rise in abortions in Tamil Nadu due to this unavailability. This is because emergency contraceptives prevent an accidental pregnancy. It prevents a woman from having to go through the trauma of getting pregnant when she does not want to. Banning it on grounds that it is immoral puts women’s health at risk. It forces a woman to get pregnant, and then abort the fetus, with pills or surgery. Not only is this harmful for a woman’s reproductive health, but repeated abortions can severely impact the chances of a woman’s ability to conceive later, and even affect her overall physical health. Emergency contraceptives, in spite of not being as ideal as regular contraceptive pills, are better for a woman’s health than an abortion.

When a progressive state like Tamil Nadu could paralyze the choice of women, there’s not much left to say about our entire nation. To preach further to the choir, the madness doesn’t end here, around eight percent of maternal deaths in India happen due to unsafe abortions. This tragic fact is unsurprising, because sex is shrouded in secrecy in India, and women are shamed for wanting access to certain forms of gynaecological healthcare here. A woman who is raped, or has had unsafe sex for whatever reason, will have no choice but to opt for dangerous methods of self-abortion in such cases. So, apart from the physical threat to her life and health, a woman’s mental state is also negatively impacted by such moves.

And yes, much to your dismay the moral policing doesn’t apply on the greatest of all gender, men! Who will ever so, disgracefully do whatever they may please and would clearly don’t have to pay any price for it as well.

Last year, the telegraph wrote an article on arrival of “male contraceptive pills” and how it’s the new phase of progressive nation. In the wake of of letting go of one’s manhood, and a taint in the face of a successfully abusive, patriarchal dystopia. For all you know, these “protesters” would ban this for “moral concerns” and baseless claims that male pills would mean kill “manhood”. There is enough importance given to Indian men’s penises as it is.

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