Nepali Times
Guest Column
Be safe


In the final analysis, it is one's attitude towards sex that determines individual perception towards abortion.

There is the traditional moralism in our society that makes this a crime. And then there is the modern attitude that makes sex outside marriage increasingly common, which has also transformed society's attitude towards abortion.

It's not a big deal these days for young women who marry not to be virgins. Even students in Grade Six are experimenting with sex and have relations at an ever-earlier age. These dramatic changes in societal mores have meant that the laws of the land and the perceptions of adults also need to change.

When premartial sex becomes common, awareness about safe sex, about contraception has to keep pace. But in Nepal it hasn't. Teens usually have nowhere to go with questions on sexuality. It is usually not taught properly at school, many parents are bound by taboos of silence and young people usually turn to peers.

Information and communication is vital in preventing sexually transmitted diseases like HIV/AIDS as well as conception. Education about safe sex and contraceptive use in schools has become literally a life or death issue.

This is where societal attitudes towards abortion also need to change and it is not sufficient to pass a law making abortion legal.

Women should know that it is better to go to hospitals allowed by law to perform safe abortions. But, just because there is an option to safely abort an unwanted pregnancy doesn't not mean that one is lax in taking precautions. An abortion is the last resort: the idea should be not to have unwanted pregnancies at all.

When a girl thinks about abortion, she is more concerned with the social stigma attached to it rather than her own health. The personal health of young women should always be the priority-her physical health is more important than what society thinks.

Even today, in urban areas among educated young women, there isn't enough awareness about where to go to find a specialised centre for abortion and where to find an authorised doctor. If young women are to make informed decisions, they should be told through the mass media where they can go.

There are people who are against abortion and who look down upon women who have taken the decision to make that choice, but this is a very conservative view. If it were men, and not women who got pregnant and needed abortions there wouldn't be such a big hoo-ha, and society would likely accept it as a common practice. The controversy about abortion is due to the fact that we are still a patriarchal society where gender discrimination is rife.

Nepal took a big stride by legalising abortion, so there is no need to have endless debates about this. The focus now should be on awareness about safe sex, preventing unwanted pregnancies and in case young women do get pregnant where they can get an abortion without risking their lives.

With the law on their side, it is not necessary for a single Nepali women to lose their lives visiting quacks. The law has freed women from the compulsion to perform secret back-alley operations by untrained people.

Rekha Thapa is Nepali film actress. This opinion piece was adapted from an original in Himal Khabarpatrika.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)