Pakistan and the pill — Check your male privilege at the door

Updated 13 Jun 2016

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—Illustration by Sadia Khatri/Dawn.com
—Illustration by Sadia Khatri/Dawn.com

I recently had the pleasure of feeling my ovaries constrict when reading a news item: the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan seems to think it is quite dandy to warn Muslims against family planning or birth control.

“Rejecting motherhood means giving up on humanity,” he said, and that too, on live television.

Erdogan has also been overheard calling a childless woman an “incomplete” one. The execution of his statements is followed by the usual customary speak on how multiplying Muslim descendants is our piece de resistance against the Machiavellian maneuvers of the rest of the world.

This kind of fodder has been used time and again, unfortunately, to disseminate and transplant the cult of man at the expense of women.

Our own Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) has called for contraception to become contraband, echoing what has usually been a rallying call for men throughout the ages. Being the trend-chaser that it is, the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) compromised on its on-again off-again ban on birth control adverts in the form of spluttering consideration that they be aired after prime time.

Read next: CII — Pushing Pakistan back to the caves

Apparently, the fact that consenting men and women can make informed choices about what they do with their bodies is taboo enough if it urges young children to ask questions, or young minds to make decisions.


What all this boils down to is the regulation of the female body

In a world where having babies has been mandated our sole objective, concerned leaders and authorities are using biology as an excuse for subjugating us and ‘keeping us busy’.

In this world, there is no freeing up of our time and our intelligence to question and to evolve — the same system keeps us from pondering over patriarchy.

The discovery of the birth control pill has interrupted this process. It has given women a ‘cop out’— a chance to delay their exclusive errand here on earth. It is little wonder then, that today’s Islamists and their sympathisers have made birth control a clarion call for female oppression.

The fact that contraception — specifically the contraceptive pill — is available freely, has shifted the scales of an exclusively male-domain. For when men exercised control over our bodies, they also controlled our political, economic and social voices.

They gained from limiting our futures and our sexuality.

Men-made laws oversaw the maintenance of social constructs, and tripped us over when we sought mobility. Men called the shots when it came to sexual desire, and they defined us by the number and sex of the children we gave them. That was their golden age, and some factions still wish to retreat back into that belly of narrow-mindedness and domination.

Also read: Is Pakistan ready for a male contraceptive pill?

But with the de-regulation of the female body, a woman can now choose to limit the number of children she has, can choose to say ‘no’ until she is ready. She can free up her schedule, set an embargo on established structures, and advance the progress of her own agency.

When she does that, she partakes in the enterprises of man, develops and promotes the female franchise and has little time to spread the seed of male dominance.

Oh boy, that’s got to hurt.

Consider the consequences of choosing to put off child rearing: women are disrupting the status quo in a world where men have done as they please since time immemorial.

It is no wonder then that men will scream themselves hoarse about how this or that religious edict is being made to collapse so that women can cavort and be hellish, but what they really fear is that women will have some spare time, some loose change and some ungoverned flexibility.

Also read: How Pakistani organisations don't want to deal with pregnant professionals

Their world will have to accommodate another voice, another perspective and a wider social view. Our holy men and their brethren are terrified by this change; they are outraged and offended.

Their masculinity, which has till recently been their monopoly over the world, is losing steam and their male privilege is beginning to look a lot like a deflated ego.

Contraception has toppled their social order and of course they’re going to squeal.

As women, we need not pay heed to the shallow interpretations of men. We need not abdicate our foremost responsibility to them and their fraternity, which is the basic right to move up and out, to breathe, stride forth and evolve.

We no longer need to birth and be banished from widespread acceptability; we can be our own economic and social agents with the help of the little pills they’d rather not let us see.