I belong to a small village, Murhu, in the state of Jharkhand, India. There was a time when nobody in my village knew anything at all about Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights. Within this framework, something like Abortion, was either unknown or unspoken of. Today, I feel glad that in a society which inhibits conversations on abortion, I have a chance to share my thoughts and experiences, on the stigma related to abortion.

I remember how initially, I had heard the word ‘abortion’ but had no idea about its meaning and the procedures involved. FPA India did a 20-month-long intervention in our village, where Comprehensive Sexuality Education was provided to a total of 1,184 young people, from which 704 people were in school and 480 were in out-of-school settings. Through Comprehensive Sexuality Education sessions conducted by FPA India in our village, I received information about Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights, including those around safe abortion. It helped me understand the subject better and inspired me to join FPA India as a youth volunteer, where I even started educating my friends and community people about these issues. On speaking to many people, I realised that men think of abortion negatively. They may not have any knowledge about Sexual and Reproductive Health and needs of women but they will still consider abortion as something bad. Men may not know anything about women’s body, reproductive system, or menstrual cycle. They don’t even know what abortion is, or why women should be allowed to access abortion. Not just this, they have a bare minimum knowledge of their own body. In our village, women are not allowed to even take simple decisions of the family. How then would they be allowed to make an important choice such as abortion? This is the mindset that FPA India, along with us, the local volunteers, wants to change for good.

Safe abortion services may be difficult to find in a rural area like ours, as compared to urban areas. Hence, making sure that there is equal access to safe abortion services becomes extremely essential. I have seen in TV shows, how women from urban areas go to doctors and get an abortion done. But in our village and many other rural areas, due to the stigma around abortion, women don’t openly talk about it. And those who really need to, end up going to quacks and getting abortion done using unsafe methods. Before learning these details about abortion, my friends and I used to consider abortion a sin like the rest of our society. However, I am very grateful to FPA India for giving me an opportunity to get accurate information on abortion services. This helped clear my misconceptions and enhance my knowledge on abortion.

FPA India’s ongoing ‘Abortion Stigma’ project in Murhu has helped address the stigma related to abortion in our region. I, along with other male volunteers, talk to boys and men about abortion and help them clarify their myths and misconceptions about abortion, too. I believe that stigma related to abortion is due to the lack of knowledge and information among people. This prevents them from accessing safe services for abortion.

After the positive intervention by FPA India in our village, I can see that girls know about contraception and even opt for contraceptive pills to prevent pregnancy. FPA India not just provides counselling and sexuality education, but also has made provisions for us, villagers, to access medical services, including abortion. Also, while being educated on abortion methods, we have also been told by them that abortion is not an alternative to contraception. Contraception is very essential and in case of failure, women should be able to opt for safe abortion services. And sex-selective abortion is something we shouldn’t even think of, is what we have learnt and what we explain while working with communities. We need to educate both girls and boys about their Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) to enable them to make the right choices. There are many like me who have joined hands with FPA India in changing this deep-rooted belief about abortion, so that every woman in our village has equal access to safe abortion services.

 

Sanjeev Kumar

Youth Champion,

Murhu – Jharkhand, FPA India

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