By Ila Ananya
The state government in Tamil Nadu thinks it’s important for them to know if women are pregnant.
No jokes, according to reports, Tamil Nadu is trying to make it mandatory for all pregnant women to register their pregnancies with the health department. Of course officials are giving everyone a noble reason, saying that it’s to ensure that both the pregnancy and birth happen safely. They’re hoping to bring down maternal and infant mortality rates “by keeping a tab on every pregnant woman in the state”, as health secretary J Radhakrishnan reportedly said.
Does that sound completely eerie to anyone else? Times of India reported that this is going to even go one step further — if women don’t register their pregnancies, they won’t be allowed to register the child birth itself, which means their child won’t be given a birth certificate. Seriously.
What registering the pregnancy will do is give the state the rights to track the expectant mother’s medical records, essentially keeping “everybody informed,” as a senior doctor working on the project reportedly said. Just these terms should be enough to make every woman uncomfortable — why should the state know any details about who is pregnant? The rule will also make it easier for the state to get information on the number of women choosing to get abortions and why, something that has always been used against women.
This new rule in Tamil Nadu, which is supposed to fall in place by July this year, reminds us a bit of Maharashtra’s unbelievable ‘solution’ to female foeticide — to make sex determination legal. Essentially, it would mean that the women are tracked during the course of the pregnancy, and like Tamil Nadu’s rule, it’s only a 24-hour surveillance of pregnant women.
It’s highly problematic that states seem to believe that the only way they can make deliveries safer is to put women under surveillance, tracking them and what they choose to do. What about actually choosing to work harder at providing much better health facilities to women? That’s too much work, nobody wants to think about that.