I have always been a child-lover since my childhood. I used to enjoy myself playing with two-three year old children. I have carried all the small babies of my neighborhood. Whenever I asked my mother about how I was born, my mother used to tell me God kept me in her stomach and after a few months, I came out. And I believed so. I believed that after marriage, God blesses the couple with a child.
Seeing my love for children, my neighbors used to jokingly tell me to ask my parents for my own little brother or sister. I, a 10 year-old girl, was shocked how my parents could give me little brother or sister because as a child I was always told children are a gift of God and it is under God’s control. Ever since then, I found pregnancy and conceiving a child a mystery. I once overheard my aunties talking about someone aborting a child and I was shocked how one could kill an unborn child. Anytime I heard someone aborting a child, I got disheartened as one was taking a God – gifted life away. This mystery remained for a few years until I was fourteen. I came across the words like sex, sperm, condom etc but was not able to talk about it openly. Even though they were in my text books, I hardly remember being taught the subject matter properly. My curious mind had a lot of questions which remained unanswered until the mystery remained unfolded.
When I was sixteen, I got an opportunity to be part of a three- day edutainment camp on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) organized by Y-PEER Nepal. On the very first day we were asked to yell out the words penis, vagina, sex and condom to make us familiar with the words. It was a little uncomfortable at the beginning but by the end of three days I was very comfortable using those words. I learnt a lot about my own body, menstruation, sex, pregnancy and contraceptives. That day I realized my mother lied to me about God putting me inside her stomach. That day I realized what my neighbors were telling me. That day I realized a child isn’t a blessing of God for married couples.
After that 3 day workshop, I got more involved in the field of SRHR. I learnt about abortion and Nepal legalizing safe abortion. Though it has been legalized I still wasn’t convinced because I loved children very much. The more I researched, the more stories I started hearing, of teenage pregnancy, unwanted pregnancy due to rape and many more. I also heard how women used to practice unsafe abortion either by consuming unprescribed medicines or inserting a stick inside the vagina to kill the fetus. These stories gave me goosebumps. I was shocked to learn how one could risk their own life to terminate the pregnancy. I realized safe abortion is a need and ensuring safe abortion is very important but still my values weren’t ready to accept as it was eventually killing a life.
Recently, I was part of online youth advocacy institute on Safe Abortion organized by Asia Safe Abortion Partnership where I got more perspectives on safe abortion. The only 100% guarantee to avoid pregnancy is abstinence which isn’t possible for many as sex is a basic physical need. Then the other option is contraceptives among which none guarantees 100% effectiveness. So, there are chances of unwanted pregnancies and ultimately the need of safe abortion spaces because when we restrict safe abortion, we aren’t reducing abortions rather we are reducing safe abortion. Though Nepal has legalized safe abortion on 2002, there are still cases of unsafe abortions due to lack of awareness and cultural restrictions. It is important to ensure the accessibility of safe abortion to all women to save lives of women. It is true that abortion may seem as if it is ending a life but the life of that living woman is more valuable than that of an unborn fetus. These perspectives really helped to clear my doubts and fully accepting the need of access to safe abortion.
The mystery of that 10-year old girl has finally been solved. However, it did take a very long process to unlearn what I have been taught as a child. My biggest unlearning was that children are NOT gifts of God.
Sajju Maharjan is a proud feminist who has been advocating for women’s rights, empowerment and equality. She is a certified trainer of Sexual and Repoductive Health and Rights who strongly believes that open communition on Sex, Gender and Sexuality is necessary to solve the issues related to it. She recently completed Youth Advocacy Institute organized by Asia Safe Abortion Partnerships.