Ireland may have legalised gay marriage, but continues to fail its women on abortion rights
World over, Ireland is drawing praise from liberals for becoming the first country to comprehensively legalise gay marriage, through a referendum. Marriage equality is a top priority for LGBT-rights advocates in the West, given how legal recognition could give gay couples the same legal status and economic benefits as heterosexual ones. In India, LGBT rights, rather shamefully, remain unrecognised. In fact, homosexuality was recriminalised within just five years of its decriminalisation in 2009.
Even though legalising gay marriage is a singularly progressive stride taken by Ireland despite the country’s entrenched Catholicism that holds homosexuality as sinful, it rather jars that the country is yet to adopt a similar progressive outlook on abortion. So stringent are its anti-abortion laws that Irish women who can afford it, go to hospitals in the UK to get their pregnancies terminated. In fact, in 2013—the year Savita Halappanavar, an Indian-origin dentist died of septicaemia after she was denied an abortion even as she was miscarrying—over 3,600 Irish women got abortions in UK facilities. The Irish parliament rejected a pro-choice Bill presented by a woman lawmaker just earlier this month. And now, with the government clarifying that it would not conduct any new referendum in the lines of the gay-marriage one for the rest of its term, even that hope is gone. Just as India could take a leaf from Ireland when it comes to gay rights, Ireland too needs to emulate India, where abortions are legal up to 20 weeks of pregnancy (with safeguards against sex determination), to protect women’s health and grant them comprehensive rights over their bodies.