Food is a human 'right'.
Maternity is a 'benefit'.
Gender is a 'problem'.
Maternity is a 'benefit'.
Gender is a 'problem'.
Never mind, let me tell you a story.
Khairi is a new mother. Khairi has just given birth, at home. Hours after the birth, Khairi is seen sitting up, pressing warm pads (an old saree folded into a cushion and heated on top of a stove) to her belly, in a futile effort to ease the pain. For the next two days, her baby will survive (perhaps) by licking jaggery off her fingertips. The first feed (the thick yellowish breast milk) within hours of birth is crucial to the baby's health - Khairi knows. But she is not feeding the baby, because she has not eaten herself. Even through her pregnancy, she never had more than two-three rotis a day. She hopes that to produce some milk, hopes to feed the baby, hopes to keep it alive.
Khairi will not get three months' leave from work. She is an agricultural labourer. If she does not work, she does not eat. The government offers her or her child no guarantees. She can go to the anganwadi and collect her allocation, which is supposed to supplement her diet. Supplements, yes....but supplement what?
Khairi might have a husband. In this story, we don't know for sure. He is probably a labourer himself. Perhaps, he makes enough to feed his wife well. Perhaps, he does not. Perhaps, he does not think that he needs to make enough for her or her baby.
Let us assume that Khairi's husband did not want the baby. He just wanted uncomplicated sex.
Let us also assume that Khairi is willing to bring up her own baby, and that society will not ostracise her. Khairi goes back to work within three days of having a baby. She carries the baby around with her (she can do this since she is an agricultural labourer; it would have been difficult if she made presentations in corporate board-rooms). Perhaps, she already had another child. This child will most likely be pulled out of school to look after the newborn.
We (society) have the following options:
- Let Khairi's baby die. It is unwanted and if the mother cannot keep it alive, well, tough!
- Insist that Khairi's husband pay for the child. Acting on the philosophy that there is no such thing as uncomplicated sex, and that reproduction is the natural outcome thereof.
- Find out whose decision it was to have the baby (after having established without doubt that abortion facilities were freely available to the couple) to assign responsibility for the child.
- Pay for the baby collectively (through taxes), but not enough for Khairi's survival.
- Pay collectively for Khairi, at least for three months, possibly for eighteen months.
Which option sounds the most reasonable to you?
Did you decide that ALL mothers must be taken care of, regardless of background or type of employment, to allow for motherhood?
If not, then - in all fairness - you must also decide to abandon all child nutrition/health/education
/safety services; after all, your logic suggests that children are the parents' (at least, the mother's) responsibility. They only deserve as much health, as much protection, as their biological parents can afford. Correct?
And if this too is not acceptable, then, what do you recommend?
Do you recommend that women go on pushing themselves to work, to the dishes, to the hospital, to the boundaries of endurance, because they are the ones who have babies?
Do you recommend that women stop having babies, unless they can find a male human who coughs up enough money to survive a few years?
Do you recommend that companies who refuse to hire mothers (or are found to suffer from a disproportionate lack of mothers in their work-force) be penalised?
Do you recommend that women confine themselves to kitchen, crib and bedroom, and put up with anything their men may throw their way - in exchange for the glorious opportunity to get pregnant?
Do you recommend that women give birth and then abandon babies, because, surely, people can change their minds?
Do you recommend that we allow women to sell babies? Why should the state intervene? Why does society (we) feel outraged and/or concerned when a woman sells her baby? Do we assume the right to prevent such sales? (But rights bring responsibilities.)
I make none of the aforementioned recommendations.
But I would like to know - especially those who disagree with the suggestion that mothers be allowed at least eighteen months of social support - What do you recommend?
[In response to - Why mothers? Why now? Why, when half the nation's children are hungry, and half the women don't have access to pre/post-natal care, and half the men are jobless and half the world at war? Why, when we can't seem to get the population to stop producing a more infernal population?]