The unwed mother

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I watched two episodes recently on a popular Indian television channel which narrates true incidents of crime. One was the case of a young unmarried woman who committed suicide because she thought she was pregnant. Another was that of an unmarried girl who tried to terminate her pregnancy herself in a crude way, and lost her life in the process.

Another episode featured the story of a girl who was unknowingly videotaped in a consensual sexual act by her then boyfriend who later threatened to upload it on the internet once she moved out of the relationship. The girl and her current boyfriend ended up murdering him, and that is how they gained access to the pen drive which had the video. I have seen a similar concept in a Hindi movie where a family goes to great lengths covering up the accidental killing of a boy, protecting the “honour” of their daughter who was videotaped by him while taking a shower.

What is the message that this conveys to our girls? That their “honour” is more important than their life? And what is this “honour” anyway?

Is it a crime to be an unwed mother? Is it shameful? Does the society shame the unwed father?

What kind of a society is this where the woman is shamed no matter what? If she is raped, she should be the one hiding in shame although we acknowledge that she is a victim. If she has a consensual sexual relationship with somebody she likes and gets pregnant, she is still shamed. If the person she trusted breaks her trust and makes a private act public, she is again humiliated. When she is forced upon by her husband in a marital relationship though, she has no rights. Then, she would probably be shamed for not cooperating with him.

In one of the shows I saw, the uncle of the dying girl who was assumed to be pregnant refused to take her to the doctor, saying that if people found out she was an unwed mother, nobody would marry her sister!

If that is the worst that could happen – nobody would marry her or her sister, so be it! Since when did getting married become more important than being alive? Does it make any sense giving birth to daughters and raising them only to consider their lives so cheap?

When are we going to teach the girls that they have the right to their bodies. We should educate them and guide them to make informed choices. Her body is hers and what she does with it is her choice. It is time we stop treating it as the custodian of the family’s or the society’s values. Her sexual choices are an aspect of her personality. They do not define her character. They certainly do not determine anything as far as the family and society is concerned.

I wish every parent would create an environment where they would tell their daughters that no matter what, they would be there for support. If she becomes a victim of misuse of a picture / video she should be told that it was NOT her fault. It was a mistake – the person she trusted turned out to be a wrong. It was a judgment error, but not a crime.

The criminal here is the boy and there are laws in place to take action against him. Whatever humiliation she may face because of it would be temporary but she can recover from it. If an unintended pregnancy occurs, there are options available. We should not just provide education to our daughters, but empower them to face any situation in life with courage.

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