We have all heard of, if not seen, Breaking Bad. But it is time now to speak of Breaking the Silence. Some of us had the privilege of being present for a historic moment where a trio of wonderful brave and angry women performed a series of moving monologues. Sharing women’s stories and breaking the silence around abortion.
Why is that such a big deal you may ask ? Recent years have seen even real women speak out and say “I had an Abortion.” While that is true, we were seeing this performance in the heart of Manila, the Philippines, where just 4 days ago some groups had filed a court temporary restraining order to ban the ongoing 7th APCRSHR from being held –only because the gathering international academics and civil society groups would be discussing abortions. Fortunately the court dismissed the petition stating that this was a forum for academic discussion and topics could not be confined to national concerns as well as pointing out that no actual abortion were to be performed at the venue !
The monologues were set in a national context but the stories were of such a universal nature. Girls and women all over the world, including in countries where abortion is legal, suffer enormous anxiety, stigma, pain and often insensitive and brutal behaviour from those to whom everyone else in society can turn to for succour and relief—the doctor and the religious leader.
What a crying shame. But it is not just an emotional issue where saying ‘oh the poor women and girls’, ‘we feel sorry for them’ is going to be enough of a reaction. We need to go beyond that and recognize that this ill treatment by doctors, community members and the governments is not just a sad and shameful issue but a very serious violation of these women’s human rights. It is an unacceptable form of discrimination against women since men never die of abortions and such laws criminalizing abortion affect only women and girls.
The cultural environment in our part of the world continues to glorify women in the roles of wife and mother. In fact even many national policies and international donor programmes address women only under ‘maternal and child health’ issues as though no women exist who are not mothers !
In fact, and one cannot say this often enough—most women who seek abortion are ALREADY mothers !!! Abortion is never an easy decision. But the fact that many women pay the price for that choice with their lives shows how very very very much they do NOT want to continue that pregnancy. These deaths have to stop. The shaming and cruelty has to end. We all need to add our voices to those of these and other brave women the world over and break the silence.
You can still see live tweets from the event using the hashtag #breakingthesilence
We would like to acknowledge and credit our local, regional and international partners who wrote and organized this play . We are not using their names here for security reasons.