13 August, 2014

the confusion of being a pro-life liberal in india

many years ago, when i first came across the ‘pro-life’ v/s the ‘pro-choice’ debate in the USA, i remember thinking it to be a no-brainer. of course, a liberal rational secular humanist (LibRaSH, to coin an acronym: as i see myself) must be ‘pro-choice’, until i realised the problems of being such in a civilisation/culture such as india

india has a peculiar problem for LibRaSHes like me when it comes to human females having unfettered right over the foetus(es) they carry, especially seen from the following perspectives:

1. women are not yet really ‘free’ to make choices in most of india. their families, and especially the elder male and (surprisingly for non indian LibRaSHes) female relatives take, and coerce the pregnant female (PF) to take, many decisions that may not be what the PF wants. in some cases, even when it may seem prima facie the case that the PF wants the same as the ‘elders’, deep down, it is usually a case of cultural and societal brainwashing (some of which starts as early as the infancy of the said PF). the gender roles, and limitations are so set in the minds of the PF that many-a-times, the decisions taken (or seemingly taken) by her are more to do with social conditioning and expectations than with true free will (yes, i would love a discussion on ‘true free will’, but this is not the place. maybe in another post)

2. the macro problem of gender imbalance in our population, and the moral issue of infanticide

3. the issue of the perpetuation of the gender stereotype and parochial, paternalistic thinking, and the good reasons (once again, for a LibRaSH, i take such thinking as given. once again, what are ‘good reasons' is something we can discuss in another post) for decreasing and nullifying it if we must survive into the new future

given these very culture-specific issues, i have not yet made up my mind whether a legislation that allows state control over foetuses is good or bad, and whether i fall in the ‘pro-choice’ or the ‘pro-life’ camps, or is there a middle way out there

where does religion/politics/irrational belief come in? well, everywhere. in our decision to prefer males over females, in our decision to decree that the collective (the family) has control over the individual (the PF), in our decision to sacrifice a life for the ‘greater good’ of the lineage, in fact even in our fallacious misunderstanding that a female somehow carries less of the previous generation’s genes than the male (the truth is, surprisingly for many people i spoke to, exactly the opposite! you are more closely related to your mother’s side than your father’s), and of course in the whole ‘we can’t talk about it since it is sacred’ approach to the issue…religion has screwed this up

but then, can the LibRaSHes be blameless in this regard? of course not. in their blind efforts to ape the west, they seem to have unthinkingly opted to be in the ‘pro-choice’ camp, without regard to local, on-the-ground conditions, and how it affects the morality of such a stand in india. they have refused to have a discussion, or even consider this topic open to debate, which makes them very similar to the 'pro-life' people who hold that view because of their faith

and hence, here we are…what are your thoughts?