You are not alone
A new campaign by Agents of Ishq aims to normalise the topic of abortion by involving all the stakeholders
On September 28, observed as International Safe Abortion Day, Agents of Ishq (AOI), in partnership with the #MyBodyMyChoice campaign, released a nine-minute video that discusses sex, pregnancy and abortion. The video is part of an effort by Sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) and civil society organisations, an international consultancy, to use policy advocacy to address critical health issues. The melodramatic Bollywood clips notwithstanding, the tutorial is blunt and straightforward. "This was the idea," AOI founder Paromita Vohra says. "We wanted to do it in the myth-busting fashion because abortion comes with the notion of being a terribly depressing fate. It's made out to be the worst thing that can happen to you."'
Vohra believes these perceptions don't really stem from the emotions of the women or men who may find themselves in this situation. "It's a result of cultural messaging that we have all internalised," she says. It's the reason why the video is called Bin Bakwas Ekdam Khas—because it was about time we talked abortion minus the shame. Along with the video, AOI released a signature campaign inviting people to pledge to #SupportChoiceNotStigma. Actor Sonam Kapoor was among those to endorse it.
The video is part of a larger effort by the organisations to raise awareness, end stigma around abortion and uphold the rights of women to make their own decisions about their bodies.
"Since we launched in September last year, our main objective has been simple: to create conversation around abortion and the right of women and girls to bodily autonomy," says Vinoj Manning, CEO, Ipas Development Foundation, one of the 13 organisations that have come together for the campaign.
This year, they also ran a campaign #MyAbortionStory with artist and activist Indu Harikumar, and crowdsourced personal stories which she illustrated. "While everyone's experience has been personal and unique, highlighting personal stories had a domino effect. We received powerful 25 stories, many from women who found solace in being able to share their experiences for the first time," he says.
The reason for collaborating with Agents of Ishq was to tackle "heavily loaded" topics in a friendly manner. Vohra believes that over the last four years, AOI has perfected a tone, where they can talk about uncomfortable subjects comfortably.
"We wanted to create material that's helpful to people. Which is why the video delves into details such as what leads to pregnancy, methods of contraception, what you can do if you discover you're pregnant and don't want to have it, and the laws around it," she says.
The other objective is to dispel the myth that the woman is the only stakeholder in the situation. The latest theme of the Instagram campaign, which will run for a month, is called #IWannaHoldYourHand. It fuses the subject of abortion with mental health.
What's interesting is the approach: the narrative is from a man's perspective. "We wanted men to be a part of the conversation. The male voices are of those who are either partners of the women who got pregnant or are brothers or friends, and have tried to help them. We found a man who was ready to discuss the emotional difficulty both he and his girlfriend encountered when faced with judgmental doctor. The fear of shaming and stigma took a toll on them. This was a way of normalising the conversation," Vohra says.
Manning also hopes that the campaign will highlight the challenges that women face while trying to make decisions that should be theirs to make. "Ultimately, it needs to translates into a movement, where people collectively call for a women's right to choose."
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