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July 11, 2018

Losing count on #WorldPopulationDay

“Didi, I have to go to the doctor for a checkup today. I am pregnant,” my house help announces, a little embarrassed.

“Oh Congratulations!” I say instinctively, even before realising that her face does not reflect the happinesses an expectant mother’s should.

Lalita (name changed) has been working with us for the last five years now.  An otherwise unobtrusive personality, the only time I see her complaining is when she speaks about her alcoholic husband.
I sense her discomfort on being congratulated, and quickly ask.

“But...don’t you have three children already?”

She stays mum, her gaze fixed on the floor.

“Lalita, is everything alright?” I ask.

It is as if this question has broken down the dam holding back her tears.

“He wants a son, Didi,” she cries.

This scenario is not unique only to Lalita. There are millions of Lalitas in our country, who are going through unwanted pregnancies.
Improper family planning, inadequate knowledge of contraception, lack of education, and growing illiteracy have been the contributing factors to the dismal state of population explosion.
As of today (2018), the population of the world stands at 7.6 billion, with India at 1.35 billion.

Image source:Wikipedia

According to the chief of UNFPA, developing countries have an estimated 214 million women who want to avoid pregnancy, but are not using modern contraceptive methods. This includes 155 million women using absolutely no family planning method. Some 59 million are using traditional methods that are unsafe and unreliable.

It was fifty years ago, that family planning was declared as a Human right by the United Nations. Today, we are celebrating World Population Day with the theme of ‘Family Planning is a human right’ to remind us of the same.

But how is this going to reach people like Lalita?
The Government should ensure that the women in our country are educated of her sexual/reproductive rights, and that all couples realise their contraceptive choices.
It is only through awareness and education that we will able to burst the myths about contraception, and ensure the safety and empowerment of women in the world.

Another factor that needs serious attention is the issue of maternal health in our country. The safety of health is paramount. And we have to reinforce the idea that adding the pressure of repeated and closely spaced pregnancies can only take a toll on the health of the mother.

However, the entire onus does not lie on the Government alone.
Professionals like doctors, educators, mass influencers, media should share the responsibility of reaching out and spreading awareness.
Every woman should be made aware of her reproductive rights and the freedom to exercise her will (or lack of it).

As I explain all this to Lalita, she looks up at me, her sunken anaemic eyes teary but convinced. I promise her I’ll talk to her husband as well. 

And that makes me wonder...
Lalita has been going through this ordeal for the last so many years now. But it’s only now that I took notice. I couldn't help but draw parallels with the larger problem at hand. The earth too has been exploding with people since ages and we are practically being blind to it.

How easy it is, sometimes, to miss the obvious! 

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