Is it really about women empowerment?

Rani opened the door and wriggled straight to the kitchen trying to avoid my direct confrontation. That bruise beneath her left eye was distinctly revealing how it could have appeared there, but her mannerism indicated that though she is ready to treat me as a guest, I need not question her for anything.

Still I couldn’t help myself poke my nose into her business.

“Nothing much, we had an argument yesterday.” She replied with a smile, and her stretched lips made my mind boggle that how much pain she might be carrying in that fake smile.

How else could a wife behave when she has been degraded by her husband last night? After-all he is the owner, not only of the house but her also. She looks upon him for all her needs and he has the right to treat her however he wants. As the bread winner of the family he has the decree where and how to spent his hard earned money; playing the liaison link of family, he has that stress to regulate with whom and to which extent the outer world has to be communicated: being the only intellectual persona of the family, he is the governing authority regarding every aspect of the house. The entire role which he has to play, the decision maker, bread winner, liasioning agent and many petty other responsibilities, obviously necessitates to brutally show his power over the subordinates at times.

What if she has to attend the house, with the same patience, fondliness, determination with which he handles the work at office! It’s just some petty house chore and that’s his work; What if she spends the entire day doggedly cleaning the house hunting for the concealed cobwebs, piling the clothes, arranging for the needs of the family, he is the tedious one who works under stress from 9.00 a.m. to 6.00 p.m. So what if she is committed to work from dawn to dusk on endless petty missions for the family, the family which constitutes her and him: she still has the time to sleep, to catch with the neighbours, to gossip, to shop, to entertain herself; so much leisure time to spend! How can she even think to be on the similar coin where the efforts of the poor husband is engraved!

The poor he: one who wakes up calling her for laying the breakfast, one who after finishing the newspaper hurries putting on the attire she has cleaned and pressed for him to wear, one who while leaving for office entrusts her with the responsibility to take care of the house, one who expects her to be ready with a cup of tea and some snacks along with her comforting smile as soon as he enters the house in the evening, the one who frowns at her if the dinner she had prepared is salt deficient or otherwise, and sometimes even uses his arm to bounce the plate with the food back to her if served cold because he had a tiring day at office. How could she even excuse herself being weary neglecting her duties even for one day; at the cost of comfort of that distressed, tired, exhausted, over-fatigued person!

What if she has to laundry the big bed sheets, draperies any other giant clothing’s without any aid, he is still stronger as he can slap and demean his wife whenever and wherever he feels. After-all he is masculine and she is feminine. Masculinity is indeed more powerful, so powerful that it enables a man to enrage upon that petite woman: the women who loves him, takes care of his needs, and solely depends on him for her every decision. His virility gives him right to decrease her every now and then. He is humorous enough to make a jest of her parents and of her too; but sensitive too to not tolerate any comments made on him and his parents. If he interferes in her homely chores he care for her, if she interferes in his worldly transactions, she doesn’t respects her enough.

How the stereotype image from the ages had bonded with us humans. Two distinct genders, though both have a mind of their own, still she believes it to be appropriate that the authority to be the police for her choice of clothes, her mannerisms should be in someone others hands. He cannot be termed as wrong, why one would willingly give the authority to command when it is dutifully bestowed upon him. The dominance, the decision makes him powerful and it can’t be seen as his fault if her consent is not involved in anything. It’s not justified when some women revolutionary agencies call him to be patriarchal.  It can’t be called as his fault ever. When he has been given the power, why will he disempower himself on his own, if she doesn’t speak for herself?

Though there seem to be some change in scenario in modern setup; the increasingly number of women have started working while a considerate number of husbands take care of home too, but how much scenario has changed is still a matter of concern. However it seems that people have begun to understand that war in every house is not about women empowerment, but it’s about being understood in one’s own house, about acceptance, about respect, about the struggle to retain her dignity.

Draft surrogacy bill: Issues and concerns

Surrogacy is an agreement whereby a woman rent her womb to another parent, for carrying out their biological child in her uterus. It is astonishing to think how surrogate produced children could be manufactured as designer babies. Wealthy parents can select a perfect fusion of sperm from a male having a good I.Q., who has graduated from prestigious college with the egg of an athletic female who exhibits beauty and brains too. Leave the couple aside; it is a medium in which even singles can attempt to create their dream child.

But the proposed Bill regarding surrogacy now bars married couples who have biological or adopted children, single people, live-in partners, and homosexuals from opting for surrogacy. It only allows ‘altruistic surrogacy’ for childless couples who have been married for at least five years. The surrogate mother should be a ‘close relative’ of the couple, should be married and have borne a child of her own. Also, a woman can be a surrogate only once in her lifetime. Foreigners and NRIs have also been barred from opting for surrogacy.

The buzz which was created with the introduction of surrogacy (regulation) bill 2016, to ban commercial surrogacy persuaded Amla to visit a surrogate residency. Everything there seemed to be unusually quiet, apart from that television that echoed from far making everyone with grave faces silently hook on the screen viewing some debate about surrogacy.

Amla spotted two women with bulged stomach lounging on the cot shedding tears.

“Is everything ok?” She gently asked one of them.

“They are calling us machine; can you call a child-bearing woman a machine? Do they even realise how deeply we are involved in this. If this is really as bad as they have made, would so many of us were to be found here?” She blasted.

“The option of carrying a child inside me to give joy to another woman and improve my own financial situation has empowered me, and they are saying it is for safeguarding us. I don’t understand this.” Her companion added as Amla stepped forward to sit by her side.

The cause of anger and grief of the women in the premises was very much visible. From that middle-aged woman expecting a baby for a US-based NRI family, to that another short heighted one ready to deliver twins for a couple, to that smart flower print clad woman whose pregnancy was confirmed two days earlier, and extending to all those having bulged or about to bulge bellies the proposed new law on surrogacy, has pushed everyone into a legal grey zone.

The television programme ended, just to let the gibbering of ladies start there. All of them seemed to share the same view. Some said altruistic surrogacy will not work in India, where the surrogates turn to this option to support their families. The others murmured that while money is the main reason behind the decision to become surrogates, yet they feel insulted by the use of the word “commercial.”

Ragini who was becoming surrogate for the second time raged, “People who do not know what surrogacy is demean it and want to ban one of the noblest and deepest of human relations. My Australian friend continues to be in touch with me. It is a bond I would have never developed had it not been for surrogacy. Foreign couples are just seeking a family and they take care of their surrogates throughout their life because of the bond, not as a commercial deal.”

“The decision-makers have treated surrogacy as organ transplant, restricting it to close relatives. However, what will a woman do if she does not find a close woman relative willing to be her surrogate? There needs to be an understanding of the issue. Otherwise the bill will be cruel to a woman who is yearning for a child,” another woman vocalised.

Amla was having her own conception based on ethical and legal issues of surrogacy, from whatever she has read on papers. She was aware of that case where a surrogate was pregnant for a Japanese couple, but by the time she delivered a child for them, the couple were separated and the baby was both parentless and stateless, caught between the legal systems of two countries. Till now, Amla had thought the bill to be perfectly right as it aimed at banning commercial surrogacy to protect women from exploitation and ensure the rights of the child born through surrogacy, but witnessing the concerned persons’ faces made her confused today.

Agreed, as the surrogacy industry is based on impoverishment of large section of society, particularly women, many malpractices, such as implantation of more than four embryos in the surrogate womb are made invasive. Surrogates are made to undergo caesarean so the time of birth suits the commissioning parents. Exploitation, commoditisation, coercion are obvious to enter when women are paid to be pregnant and deliver babies. The uneducated surrogates sign contracts agreeing that even if they are seriously injured during the later stages of pregnancy, or suffer any life-threatening illness, they will be sustained with life-support equipment to protect the foetus. And in tragic cases which did has happened in the country in the past, the hospital had quickly paid the money for a successful birth, so that the family would be unlikely to complain. In a country where thousands of women die every year in normal childbirths, who would complain about the death of a surrogate. It is indeed distressing that how easily the horror of all the wrongdoing is swept away by the money paid out to surrogates. But it couldn’t be denied that even if there are areas which could create uneasiness among the aware section, the industry amounts to create and share happiness for childless too, providing financial security to surrogates and their families, helping people reach their dreams. Indeed the surrogate hostel inmates had earned enough to build small homes for their families, and buy some security for their children schoolings.

As Amla prepared to leave from there, the earlier rationale appearing surrogacy bill now somewhat changed its nature for her as she witnessed those considerate faces there which screamed how bill will hit these people if passed. Might be they were the last generation of commercial surrogates present there. And they all have their dreams, aspirations with this industry. Instead of being traumatized, an overwhelming majority of surrogates experience empowerment by their surrogacy sentience. Amla now knowing all the pros and cons of surrogacy re-evaluated her earlier notion about it. Even if the Bill may have the right intentions to protect the surrogates, still it is too stringent in its scope. There should not be a single blanket rule to govern the ethical and legal aspect of surrogacy. Surrogacy needs a more humane approach and more individual attention case-by-case.