ගබ්සාව මානව අයිතිවාසිකමකි. Abortion is a human right.

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(Original image from https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10155530544305185)

ආරක්ෂිත හා නීත්යානුකූල ගබ්සාව සඳහා මානව අයිතිවාසිකම ගැන සටන වෙනුවන් මේ දවස්වල හඬනගන සහෘදයන් දැක්කම මගේ හිතට ලොකු හයියක් ආවා. ඔවුන් සමහරක් බෙදා හරින මේ පෝස්ටරයට මම සංශෝධන කිහිපයක් කරා. හේතුව අපේ මේ සටනේ මූලික හේතු මතක් කරගන්නයි.

ස්තී්ර දූෂණය, බාලවයස්කාර වීම, මාරාන්තික ආබාධ සහිත කලලයක් සහ ගැබිනි මවකගේ ජීවිතයට අනතුරුදායකත්වය වනි කරුණු ගබ්සාවට වලංගු හේතු සාධක තමයි. නමුත් කාන්තාවකට ගබ්සාවක් කරගන්න කොන්දේසි අවශ්ය විය යුතු නෑ. ශ්රී ලංකාවේ සහ ලෝකය පුරා ගබ්සා කිරීමට ලොකුම හේතුව වන්නේ අනවශ්ය ගැබ් ගැනීම්. අනවශ්ය වෙන්න හේතු මොනාද? ඉහත සඳහන් හේතු සාධකත් ඇතුලත් හැබැයි වඩාත් පොදු හේතු මෙසේය. ඇයට තවත් දරුවන් අවශ්ය නොවීම, ඇයට දරුවන් එක්කෙනෙක්වත් අවශ්ය නොවීම, ඇය තවත් ළමයෙකු සඳහා තාමත් සූදානම් නොවීම, ඇය ප්‍රථම දරුවා ලැබීමට තවමත් සූදානම් නොවීම, ඇයට ස්ථාවර සම්බන්ධතාවයක් නොතිබීම, ගැබ් ගැනීම ඇයගේ අධ්යාපනයට හෝ රැකියාවට බාධාවක් වීම හා මේ වගේ බොහෝ හේතු. මේවා පිටුපස බොහෝවිට මූල්යමය, චිත්තවේගාත්මක, ශාරීරික සාධක තියෙනව.

නිදසුනක් වශයෙන් ශ්රී ලංකාව තුළ සෑම දිනකම අවම වශයෙන් ගබ්සාවන් 700 ක් සිදු කරන බව ඇස්තමේන්තු කර තියෙන අතර නියම සංඛ්යාව මීටත් වැඩි බව ඇස්තමේන්තු කරනවා. ගබ්සාවන් ලබාගන්න කාන්තාවන්ගෙන් බහුතරයක් විවාහකයි (සමහර ඇස්තමේන්තු අනුව 94% ක පමණ). ඔවුන් ගබ්සා කරගන්න ප්රධාන හේතු ආර්ථික අස්ථායීතාවය සහ තවත් දරුවන්ට අවශ්ය නොවීම. ලංකාවේ මේ හේතුවලට ගබ්සා කිරීම නීති විරෝධී නිසා අනාරක්ෂිත ගබ්සා සිදු වෙනව. අනාරක්ෂිත ගබ්සා මාතෘ මරණවලට දායක වන සාධකයක්. ඉහළ ආදායම් ලබන ගෘහ ඒකකවල කාන්තාවන්ට ඔවුන්ගේ ගැබ්ගැනීම් ආරක්ෂිත (නමුත් නීතිවිරෝධී) ආකාරයෙන් අවසන් කරන්න හැකියාව සහ මුදල් තියෙනව. හැබයි මධ්යම සහ අඩු ආදායම්ලාභී ගෘහස්ථයන්ගෙන් කාන්තාවන් බොහෝ දෙනෙක්ට වෙන්නෙ අනාරක්ෂිත සහ නීති විරෝධී ගබ්සා කරගන්න. ඒවායින් බොහෝ විට මරණය හෝ දිගුකාලීන ආබාධිත තත්වයන් ඇති වෙනව. ගබ්සාව නීත්යානුකූල කලොත් ඔනෑම කාන්තාවකට අනවශ්ය ගැබ්ගැනීමක් හේතු සහ කොන්දේසි රහිතව නීත්යානුකූලව, ආරක්ෂිතව හා දැරිය හැකි මිලකට කර ගත හැකි වෙයි.

කෙටියෙන් කිව්වොත් ගබ්සාවක් කරගන්න අවශ්ය එකම හේතුව අනවශ්ය ගැබ් ගැනීමක්. ගබ්සාවක් කිරීමේ තීරණය ගත යුත්තේ ගැබ්ගත් කාන්තාව පමණක් හෝ ඇය විසින් අදාළයි කියා සිතන කෙනෙකුත් සමග විතරයි. වෙන කිසිම කෙනෙක්ගේ අනුමැතිය අවශ්ය නොවිය යුතුයි. ගබ්සාව නීතිගත කලා කියල හැම කාන්තාවකටම ගබ්සා ලබාගන්න අවශ්ය වෙන්නෙ නෑ. අවම වශයෙන් ගබ්සාව සමග එකඟ වෙන්න ඕනෙවත් නෑ (ආගමික විශ්වාසයන්, සදාචාරආත්මක පදනම් වගේ හේතු මත). ගබ්සාව නීතිගත කරන්නේ ගබ්සාවක් අවශ්ය ඕනෑම කෙනෙකුට එය කොන්දේසි විරහිතව තෝරාගන්න ලැබීමයි. අපි එම තෝරා ගැනීමේ සහ තීරණ ගැනීමේ අයිතිය වෙනුවෙන් තමයි හඬ නගන්නේ.

These past few days it’s felt truly encouraging to feel less alone in this struggle for safe and legal abortion. More allies are speaking up and taking action. This is a poster that has been circulating among such allies and I made a few edits to remind ourselves what it is we are fighting for. Rape, being a minor, foetus with lethal congenital malformation and danger to a pregnant woman’s life are all valid reasons to abort a foetus. But a woman should not need to “make a case” for why she needs an abortion. In Sri Lanka and all over the world, the reason women want the right and the choice to have an abortion is because a pregnancy is unwanted. Reasons? They could be any of those mentioned above but most often it’s because; she doesn’t want more children, she doesn’t want any children, she’s not ready for another child, she’s not ready for her first child, she’s not in a stable relationship, a pregnancy would interfere with her education or employment and many such reasons, most often based on financial, emotional and physical factors.

For an example, in Sri Lanka it is estimated that at least 700 abortions are performed each day (the actual figures are estimated to be much higher). Majority of women who undergo abortions are married (a staggering 94% by some estimates) and the main reasons for abortion are economic instability and not wanting more children. Since abortion is not legal in Sri Lanka for these reasons, women resort to illegal and often unsafe abortion. Unsafe abortion is a contributing factor to maternal deaths in Sri Lanka because while women from higher income households often have access and money to terminate their pregnancies in safe (but illegal) ways, women from middle and lower income households end up going to “backdoor abortionists”, often resulting in death or lifelong disabilities. Decriminalizing abortion would mean the women who want to abort unwanted pregnancies (for whatever reason(s)) can access them legally, safely and in an affordable and unstigmatized way.

The bottomline is, a woman should not have to list reasons why she wants an abortion and most definitely doesn’t need approval or “sign off” from anyone she doesn’t want involved in the decision. Decriminalizing abortion doesn’t mean anyone is then compelled to have an abortion or even be pro-abortion, should it be against their religious beliefs, morals, etc. Decriminalizing abortion means anyone has an unconditional CHOICE to have an abortion if they want one. We are fighting for the right to have that choice.

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Memories and Things

How do we remember our dead? This thought crosses my mind whenever our extended families gather together. My grandmothers are no more and they have left behind a void that often goes unnoticed until you notice it and then you cannot not notice it anymore. You see a chair and you miss a smile. You see a book and you miss a conversation. As much as I believe in the Buddhist philosophy of detachment (believe being the keyword), at the end of the day what we are left with are memories and things, things and memories.

My two grandmothers. Habarakada achchi and Pannipitiya achchi as I called them, identifying them by their respective hometowns where they lived after marriage and until they died.

My two achchi’s. One made her presence known, almost always. Whether she was happy or sad or angry or unwell, she’d speak up. Sometimes she’d say classist or racist things, comically cringeworthy as with most people of her generation. Other times she’d say cleverly biting things about her husband, my only living grandparent right now, making all of us laugh. Even as her health deteriorated and reduced her mobility, she still ran the household using her words. During family functions such as alms givings, she’d dictate orders to my mother who for her part would humor achchi and then continue to do things her way because stubbornness is genetically passed down (I’d know).

Most recently, I was thinking about Habarakada achchi as we got ready for a family wedding. I’m sure many of us were thinking about her though we didn’t talk to each other about it. How we wished she could have been there with us, how maybe even if she was alive it would have been too daunting a journey for her to travel so far for the occasion and so on. As the wedding ceremony commenced and parents and elders were invoked, she was present in our memories. While watching the marriage rituals unfold, I turned to one of my aunts and told her how simple and beautiful her necklace was, only to be told that it was achchi’s. Achchi wore it when she got married and then my aunt. It was a bittersweet jolt to realize she was there with us in more than our memories.

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My father’s mother was a quiet but constant presence. She was the older of my grandmothers and was a rockstar in her own right. She had a very sharp memory and while her short term memory began to slip as she entered the tenth decade of her life, she’d recall and share things from the past. Recall, she probably always did, as she sat in her usual chair tapping her fingers on the armrest. Share, she usually did when prompted by someone because she used her words sparingly (clearly not a trait I inherited though stubbornness was passed down from this side as well). While I never knew my paternal grandfather (who gave me musicality, writing and a short fuse), some of his lyrics show that achchi was his muse. Or at least the dormant romantic in me likes to think so.

Five years ago, she was in my memories and close to my heart when I got married. I had my reasons to enter into an institution I remain dubious about and goes against some of my deepest convictions, I had my reasons to do it at 25 (while hearing the horrified shrieks of my 15 year old self) and I’ve since been proud and constantly amazed by how my partner and I have deconstructed and made our own this institution (not to be taken as an endorsement of said institution). But I was also trying to find, and remain, myself in a wedding that escalated from a simple ceremony at home to a full blown big fat Sri Lankan wedding and while whiskey helped a lot, what also helped was keeping my gentle grandmother close to me.

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Achchi gifted me this brooch many years ago with a note that said my grandfather gifted it to her for her 25th birthday while he was courting her. It was a reminder to my young(er) self that your 85 year old grandmother too has romance in her life and with my disinterest in new and/or branded wedding trousseau, it was the perfect piece of jewelry to wear that day (along with my mother’s wedding sari but that’s another post). I have no idea what the stone is, I have no idea how much the brooch is valued at but I like to think that its true value is that it kept her present at the wedding in addition to our collective memories.

Things, sentimentality and heirlooms are all overrated. If not our social class then our names are definite proof that we are not the kind of family who have heirlooms that go back great many generations though were she alive Habarakada achchi will remind us that her lineage goes back to King Mayadunne. We are also not the kind of family that has hoarded too many things from the past (a reminder to my father that most of the random things he buys off Amazon will be discarded one day except maybe the Reacher and Grabber, trust me it’s worth Googling). But what we do hang on to, whether it’s a piece of ordinary looking jewelry or a library of books or a rusty gramophone or an old pen, are a true testament to the power of memories and things.

My two grandmothers. My two achchi’s. I wouldn’t say not a day goes by without me thinking of you because that is not true. But I do think of you more often than anyone would assume and sometimes it helps to have something to hold on to other than the memories.

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