The recent incidents of deaths of women during abortion in Lahore need to be looked beyond the moral implications.
These women lost their lives not because of the suspicions over their character or their relations but due to the absence of the needed healthcare facilities.
The latest case was reported on February 18 in Nishtar Colony. A 27-year-old woman reportedly went to see a man.
Later, she was found dead in a government hospital in Lahore. The family of the victim in their complaint before police alleged that their daughter was murdered.
However, they also claimed that the suspect Ejaz was their close relative. The young woman left her home along with Ejaz to get medicines.
However, later he informed them that the victim was lying dead in a hospital. The family alleged the victim had been murdered.
The police investigations suggested that the suspect and victim had an intimate relationship. He had taken her to a clinic for abortion where her condition deteriorated and she was shifted to a hospital where she died.
The other case was reported a few weeks ago in Nawab Town. A video of a girl left outside a hospital emergency facility by a youth had gone viral.
The investigations revealed that the victim and the suspect were friends. The victim with the help of the boy had undergone abortion in a small town in Jhang district. Later her condition deteriorated due to medical complications and she lost her life.
Social media platforms were abuzz with the debate mostly focused on criticism of women, urging them to refrain from relations out of wedlock. The arguments made online also urged parents to keep a closer look on their girls after two cases of women losing their lives due to complications from illegal abortion made rounds on the internet.
Thousands of people took to the social media to post their views on intimate relations before marriage. Reportedly, hundreds of video programmes regarding relationships and women were recorded and uploaded on YouTube.
However, none of them talked about an overall neglect in the society towards women’s healthcare. None of the videos discussed the need for sex education, health, orientation and safety measures.
Rarely were there any voices or platforms that raised critical questions surrounding the deaths of millions of married women during pregnancy owing to the unavailability of standard medical facilities.
There had been two basic flaws in the dominant discourse in the aftermath of the two incidents.
Firstly, the arguments focused on moral policing and ascertaining the patriarchal notions regarding women’s relationships of their choice.
Rather, it was argued that women should adhere to the traditional social institution of arranged marriage. The arguments missed the voices of women in choosing their life partners.
Marriage remains a means of strengthening social class barriers and patriarchy in the society.
The likes and dislikes of women are repeatedly dismissed when it comes to marriage by choice.
Secondly, in the online debate over abortion and women’s rights, no one raised the issue of poor medical facilities available to the public in general and women in particular.
Police investigations into the recent deaths during abortion revealed that the procedures were conducted at shabby places with poor hygiene.
Hundreds of thousands of women die in the country due to poor health facilities during pregnancy.
Moral policing surrounding the issue made it difficult to discuss sex education and abortion, instead, making them taboo.
Youth remain largely bereft of necessary awareness surrounding sexual health, including safe sex and contraception.
Every other day, incidents of dumping of newborn children are also reported across Punjab and other parts of the country.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 26th, 2021.