The motive for change is too often the tragedy that’s too late to avert. The Daily Shifts Aaron Mc Nicholas reports…
The parents of the late Savita Halappanavar have urged the Indian government to insist upon a change in Ireland’s abortion laws. The Indian ambassador to Ireland, Debashish Chakrvarti, has “conveyed the desire of the government of India for an independent inquiry to be conducted into the matter [of Savita’s death] and requested it should be kept updated about its progress.”
Ireland and India have met some of the same challenges throughout their histories, although they have taken different paths along the way. The two countries were both fighting for independence from the British Empire at the same time, but while Ireland achieved this goal by spilling blood, Mahatma Gandhi inspired resistance by making his own salt, in defiance of British taxes.
India has been partitioned, and it has suffered through violent conflict in the name of religion. No one else may be able to understand why a change in Irish abortion law cannot happen immediately, but India can.
This can be a unifying rather than dividing issue in relations between the two countries. The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act 1971 is an Indian abortion law that Ireland might not wish to duplicate in every respect, but its clarity is enviable. Clarity between a Supreme Court ruling and what was in the statute books might have been all that was needed to save Savita’s life.
However, it’s a problem that’s not unique to Ireland, and in India’s case, the clarity of some laws have done nothing to help their enforcement.
Indian foetuses are terminated because they are female. It goes against a clearly written law, but it happens. Dhananjay Mahapatra, contributor to The Times of India, reports that in some parts of the country, the practice is “prevailing without hindrance.”
The decision to refuse Savita an abortion went against a 2010 ruling by the European Court of Human Rights. The negative effects of gender-biased sex selection are enshrined in a 2011 report compiled by the World Health Organisation, with contributions from more than one United Nations agency.
Both countries have to hold themselves accountable to the international community, which is how it should be.
Ireland is facing a fierce international outcry, and any potential legislation for life-saving abortion needs to be especially convincing after the result of the X case was ignored. This law needs an Indian endorsement, making its enforcement a commitment to visitors from abroad as well as those at home.
Make it a bilateral effort, and the future looks brighter for India’s unenforced laws as well.
Mahapatra’s mention of India’s dowry deaths paints a picture of an underdeveloped society that Ireland should work to stay firmly ahead of. But India is the most populous democracy in the world, and its continuous economic growth ties the country’s wellbeing more and more closely with the world’s wellbeing. There is no gap in values that prevent a joint effort by the two countries to advance their social policy.
Pro-choice protests in Ireland have already indicated that the mood for change has reached a mobilising point. Last week, a delegation of 16 higher education institutions visited India hoping to attract more students to study in Ireland. Intercultural dialogue will always thrive with the discovery of a common ground.
Let the students do the talking, and “Never Again” is a promise that can protect the vulnerable for more than one generation, in more than one country.