Today is the International Day of Happiness!
Let’s pause for a moment and reflect on what constitutes happiness. In the modern world happiness is all about exercising choice and control and fulfilling ones desires—- and this in no way is different for women.
Women, like men have an identity that is uniquely their own. They have dreams and aspirations that cannot be fulfilled by being just a wife and mother. They demand her to be “herself”. Every woman has the right to make choices regarding her own sexuality and reproduction, and the right to access information and services needed to support these choices and optimise health.
According to a study conducted by Guttmacher institute, a majority of women said that birth control allowed them to take better care of themselves and their families, support themselves financially, complete their education or keep or get a job.
Martha Nussbaum has argued for women’s right to abortion through the capability approach; according to this approach ‘deprivations of health opportunities or opportunities for emotional well-being are just as pertinent to the concept of human dignity as deprivation of liberty of choice. Capability approach recognises a variety of ways in which laws restricting abortion may burden or violate the dignity of women not just by restricting of liberty and choice but also by damage or risks to health, bodily integrity, emotional well-being and employment options.
The campaign against abortion doesn’t happen in a vacuum, there is a much deeper politics to it. Female control over her body has historically been a threat to patriarchy; women’s right to control over her body is connected to all other rights including economic and denial of this right directly violates her fundamental rights. Control over female body and more particularly reproduction is indispensable to maintaining and sustaining a system of women’s economic, political, social and sexual subordination.
Laws banning or restricting abortions violate women’s right to choice, and are against the basic right to standard of living and violate her right to pursue her own happiness by forcing her into unwanted pregnancy and motherhood.
The right to choose whether to reproduce or not is an integral part of a woman’s individual development, and determining what happens with one’s body is the most basic of human rights; laws should therefore not simply protect women but create an enabling environment for realisation of these rights and choices.
The right to access information and services needed to support these choices and optimise health are fundamental to realisation of women’s right to control over their body, as a step towards realisation of this goal Ask Mads Hotline, a mobile phone and online helpline will be launched in Philippines, together with the global celebration of the International Day of Happiness. This is to recognize that abortion stigma and discrimination, gender-based violence, social injustices and other social issues continuously hinder women’s happiness. This is also an appeal that if we want women to be happy, their human rights, including the right to information and right to access social services including reproductive health services should be respected and provided towards its realisation.