Sony TV’s new show “Zindagi Ke Crossroads’’ has come under fire from women’s groups for its first episode on abortion.
A statement by Advocating Reproductive Choices (ARC) Coalition on the advertorial published by a media house to promote their launch episode said it was disheartening to note that a popular Indian media house is using irresponsible provocative content to promote their reality show.
The first episode of ‘Zindagi Ke Crossroads’ was aired yesterday on Sony Entertainment Television which revolved around the plight of life of the parents with special children. However, the advertorial which was released to endorse the first episode as well as the programme was insensitive, misleading and misconstrued. In a country like India which has put women at the topmost priority introducing policies and laws to safeguard their rights and respect, it is defamatory to feature a woman who has decided to take medical assistance to terminate her pregnancy as ‘She would be playing God’. The teaser goes on to reveal that the mother took this decision since she wanted to save her future child from sorrows and sufferings which s/he might face as a ‘special child’ if she continues with the pregnancy.
Advocating Reproductive Choices (ARC) is a coalition of approximately 170 civil society organisations and individuals that are committed to advocating for greater attention and focus on sexual and reproductive health issues and family planning services in India.
While watching the advert and the first show which was telecasted last night, we observed a couple of inappropriate languages used in the context of abortion, which we as a coalition would like to flag our concerns, the statement said.
While abortion legally accepted under a board range of circumstances since 1971 in India, using such sentences like ‘Mother asked to kill her own child’ or ‘She would be playing God……’ is completely unacceptable as it gives a negative connotation and demeans an extremely important issue. In fact, these words unnecessarily create a sensation to the incident adding misery to the life of the expecting woman who might have already taken a hard decision to abort the foetus post medical advice.
Further, many Indian women carry on with their unexpected pregnancies failing to take a timely call due to the social stigma around it. Therefore, terming a foetus as a “child” and hammering on the word “mother” in the advertorial as well as during the show tends to hype unnecessary expectations and also instigates the society to become judgemental about a person or a situation which do not necessarily fall under the social determinants.
The statement pointed out that abortion is a legal process and should be dealt between the decision maker and medical facilities. Brining such issues into public forum, efforts in generating discussion around those with limited cross sectoral representation from medical fraternity and advocates, rather than just lay audience, who may not be aware of the issues has actually compromised the content of the episode. We are concerned that such an episode might have a long term impact on the decision making process of women.
Expressing similar concerns, Pratigya—Campaign for Gender Equality and Safe Abortion– has asked Sony TV has quoted the recent Supreme Court judgement on privacy which said that decisions relating to reproductive autonomy including the decision to seek Medical termination of Pregnancy/ abortion and said it was a violation of this ruling. It has said it should be made clear that abortion is legal in India for a range of reasons including fetal abnormalities.
“I understand that the purpose of this program on Sony TV is to put forth the challenges people face in life. However, a personal choice on whether to have or not have an abortion is not a subject of public debate. We all need to remember that abortion is a woman’s personal decision and the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971 also recognizes this. Therefore public value based debates on a personal and contextual decision like abortion threatens the very essence of women’s rights and contravenes the right to privacy. Media needs to be sensitive to issues of women’s health and rights and not stigmatize abortion but reinforce that having an abortion is a personal choice of the woman,” said Vinoj Manning, Executive Director, Ipas Development Foundation.