We want a woman who bleeds to bear our children, but we just can’t accept that it’s a natural process and the taboo continues. From India, where villages are filled with womb-less women who remove the source of the taboo from their bodies to earn their wages to the US where Women’s eNews was forced to create ‘The Ovary Office,’ which has been relentlessly working to bring parity in the air time being provided to male and female candidates to be elected as the face of the Democratic Party for the upcoming elections – equality is still a right far far away.
There has been a lot of debate around the right to one’s body recently and the laws surrounding it. Not surprisingly though, these laws are applicable only to women. Many states in the US have passed strict laws restricting abortions. The debate boils down to a simple fact – equality.
When the laws are not discussing the reproductive organs of men and what they can do with that, then should there be a discussion about the women’s reproductive organs or their rights thereof?
While the debate of pro-life and national abortion laws is going on in the ‘developed’ countries, on the other side of the world there is India, with less stringent abortion laws in place.
So logically, in this aspect, India fares better? Right?
According to BBC.com, there have been a couple of reports wherein menstruating women have undergone forced hysterectomy. Women as young as in their twenties were made to undergo painful and unnecessary surgeries in order to put in more ‘man-hours’ in the sugar-belt and garment industry.
According to these reports, in the western state of Maharashtra, it has been revealed by Indian media that thousands of young women have undergone surgical procedures to remove their wombs in the past three years. In a substantial number of cases, they have done this so they can get work as sugarcane harvesters.
The employers are reluctant to hire women who menstruate as they might have to miss a day or more of work due to their period. The procedures have been hack jobs with little to no patient care involved. In many cases, the women were not aware of the complications that may arise due to unnecessary hysterectomy.
It is not that there are no workplace policies for menstruating women. In countries like Indonesia, South Korea, and Japan, and even certain urban companies in India, are known for their menstruation friendly policies.
According to the Business Line, as early as 1947, Japan passed a law allowing women with debilitating periods to take days off. Similarly, in South Korea, women were granted menstrual leave from the year 2001 onwards. Companies like Nike have also adopted similar policies.
While not commonly known, in India, the Bihar Government has been offering two days of period leave to women employees since 1992. Women can decide which two days of the month they would like to take off without having to provide any justification for doing so. In the recent past, a handful of private companies like the Mumbai-based media firm, Culture Machine, has also started offering menstrual leave.
In a country of contradictions, where on one hand goddesses are worshipped, menstruating women are considered ‘unclean’ to enter temples, such heinous discrimination at the workplace should come as no surprise.
But the point again boils down to equality. The only saving grace is that unlike the US, where the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment, 1972 was required to declare women as equal to men, for the US Constitution was silent on the issue, India already had gender equality as part of it’s Constitution from 1950.
But even after the passing of the amendment, the run-up to the 2020 elections is seeing red in the case of equality. As the Women’s eNews portal points out, the national, mainstream media is more prominently covering male presidential candidates than female presidential candidates. In fact, one of the top female candidates, Kamala Harris, is being eyed more as an ideal Vice President, even though she is not campaigning for that position. This bias must stop, if we are to elect the best possible Democratic candidate, regardless of gender.
‘The Ovary Office’ aims to counterbalance this patriarchal slant that currently exists in much of the mainstream media. While there are six Democratic women vying to become the party’s presidential nominee, their male counterparts have attained about 80% of the media’s coverage, thus drowning out women’s platforms and their viability as presidential candidates. ‘The Ovary Office’ plans to turn this narrative upon its head.
That being said, it is evident that the bias remains, and equality is still a far fetched concept women are fighting for everywhere.