Rohan Swamy gives an Indian man's perspective on why we need the Repeal the Eighth Movement.
The Strike for Repeal campaign is fast gaining momentum. For the sake of the people of Ireland, it is important that it doesn’t lose steam.
Now, the battle that women (and men) are fighting in Ireland to repeal the draconian Eighth Amendment is not unheard of. It has been written about in newspapers, spoken of on news shows, blogged, re-blogged, posted, tweeted and shared on Instagram on a regular basis. In fact, one would have to travel far and wide within the country to come across those living here who haven’t heard of it.
To that end, recently, I happened to be reading a blog post on a website about the abortion rights campaign. The post mentioned the upcoming Strike for Repeal movement, which is scheduled to take place on March 8 (also International Woman’s Day). It detailed other locations across the world where women have left work in order to demand a very basic existential right which has been denied to them. While the article speaks about the various locations and the relevance of the strike with context to Ireland, a line in it stood out. It read, ‘Rights are never just handed out, they must be fought for.’
The moral, socio-political and cultural implications of that one line are real, far and wide. For a nation that is considered developed by almost all standards, by people from the developing world, the fact that almost half of the population doesn’t have a very basic existential right over their bodies is downright appalling in my view. The role that religion, over time, has played in successfully culling women’s rights is not surprising. I am not singling out the Catholic Church for the sway it has had over women and their bodies all in the name of God of course, but all religions. In many ways, it is a systematic pogrom of the right to exist – one that, ironically, has also knowingly (or unknowingly) had women take part in it willingly. I agree the counter argument can always be made that women were forced into coercion. But I do believe that movements such as the current Strike for Repeal weren’t born out of coercion. It was born out of a need to unshackle the self.
To understand the need for a movement like the Strike for Repeal, one needs to understand the implications of the Eighth Amendment itself. It essentially equates the life of the pregnant woman with the foetus and limits abortion solely to the condition where a ‘real and substantial risk’ exists to the life of the mother. Now, a law like this prevents women carrying foetuses with fatal abnormalities from accessing abortions. The alternative is travelling overseas or risking a total of 14 years in jail for importing and taking abortion pills.
If the concept of the movement is still not clearer, then read the implication of the 8th Amendment once again. Only this time slowly. Read about it keeping your own future in mind. Whether you are a man or a woman. Read it slowly and let it sink it. Think about it and place yourself in the shoes of a person who feels that helplessness within. Feel what it feels like to be controlled by a draconian law. When you are done feeling it all, I hope that you feel as outraged and appalled as the women (and men) who are striking on March 8, for a referendum to have it repealed, are. I also hope if you feel outraged about it you show up too for the strike.
A lot of folks have been cynical about the outcomes of such strikes and movements but before I end my piece, I just want to point out one last thing. I am from India, and we were under the crown just as Ireland was. Back in the day, they said nothing could be achieved by striking against the mighty British Empire.
But just as it is known as the Republic of Ireland, India too is known as a republic. Think about it, all we needed was a freedom movement. And all we needed was people to participate in it.
If nothing else, this too is a freedom movement – for a better Ireland.