America loves to tell us how they are the harbinger of women’s rights and that their women are better off than their counterparts in South Asia. Then why is it that we only hear men’s voices in the debate over birth control and women’s reproductive rights.
White American women don’t have to wear a “ghoongat,” or cover their head with a “hijab” but does that make them more empowered than their counterparts in say India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka or Bangladesh? Politicians would like to tell you that women can roam free in the US while a woman in rural Bangladesh could be a victim of eve teasing and traveling in a crowded bus in any Indian city can make the boldest of women cringe. But how different is the situation in New York? Recently a woman was kidnapped in broad daylight outside the Ronkonkoma train station!
America is yet to elect a woman to lead their country but India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Bangladesh have all had women leaders much before women’s empowerment became a buzz word. While one may contest that these women came from powerful families with political backgrounds and their leaderships may have been questionable but they do deserve some credit for leading countries that have historically been patriarchal and faced challenging political climates. Rarely will you see the South Asian media dissect the fashion sense of Sonia Gandhi or Khalida Zia, but Hillary Clinton’s new haircut or Sarah Palin’s glasses will never fail to find a spot on the front page of American newspaper.
More recently it is the birth control debate that has occupied the nation’s attention. To give you a little background on the topic let me explain why there is such a furor over something as essential as birth control. A new federal mandate in the US requires private health insurance plans to cover the cost of birth control has left the country divided. To elucidate further Catholic Bishops and other religious leaders are objecting to the part of the Affordable Care Act (health care reform) that calls for ending co-pays on birth control and other preventive health services. The end result was a compromise exempting religious employers who object to contraception from paying for birth control directly, with insurance companies picking up the cost. But the Catholic Bishops don’t like the compromise either, and now they’re taking the fight farther. Rick Santorum, also weighed into this issue by adding his eloquent two cents: “One of the things I will talk about that no president has talked about before is I think the dangers of contraception in this country, the whole sexual libertine idea.
Many in the Christian faith have said, ‘Well, that’s okay … contraception’s okay.’ It’s not okay because it’s a license to do things in the sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be. They’re supposed to be within marriage, for purposes that are, yes, conjugal … but also procreative. That’s the perfect way that a sexual union should happen.”
One of the key factors of women’s empowerment would include giving women the right to choose if they want to embrace motherhood or not. One would think that this would be easy for the White world to understand but sadly not. Recently an all-male “expert” witness panel testified about birth control before the U.S. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. A group of men deciding if birth control should be easily accessible to women are not! Now that is some empowerment. In a country where women’s rights are protected they were unable to find a single woman to be part of this “expert panel”?
Recently when a young woman questioned Rush Limbaugh over the debate he called her a “slut” this coming from a man who has been married four times and has no children and openly admitted to taking Viagra, which incidentally is covered by all health care providers.
Reliable birth control that permits women to responsibly control how many children to have, and when to have them, has given women and mothers increased access to economic and political power. The whole birth control debate is nothing but a war on women’s reproductive rights and EMPOWERMENT!