Academic journal article Journal of Research in Gender Studies

The Boomerang Effect of Liberal Abortion Laws in Patriarchal Societies: The Case of Gender Biased Sex-Selection in the Republic of Azerbaijan

Academic journal article Journal of Research in Gender Studies

The Boomerang Effect of Liberal Abortion Laws in Patriarchal Societies: The Case of Gender Biased Sex-Selection in the Republic of Azerbaijan

Article excerpt

The last decades have witnessed series of concerted efforts aimed at advancing women's human rights worldwide including the adoption of the UN CEDAW Convention (Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women) as well as a number of regional, sub-regional and national legal and policy initiatives that followed. Nevertheless the women in many parts of the world are still among the most disadvantaged and vulnerable groups facing challenges regarding protection, promotion and exercise of their civil, political, social, economic and cultural rights. The discourse of women's human rights is extensively employed by policy makers all over the world while the real commitments are seriously lagging behind in the vast majority of cases. And it is especially appalling when the women's human rights parley is misused to reinforce the patriarchal notions of humanity with serious repercussions for those few victories that the gender equality advocates have been able to achieve to date. The discourse of reproductive rights in general and the issue of abortions in particular require specific consideration in this regard.

As known, any disputes on abortions inevitably involve the whole array of attitudes from the standpoint of philosophy, ethics, religion, sociology, human rights and gender studies. The issue of abortions has always been among the most controversial moral and legal dilemmas worldwide. The central terrain in the problem of induced abortions per se is occupied by the queries seeking to establish whether an unborn child should be given an opportunity to be born or is it actually a woman's right to control her body that should prevail. Series of questions aim to address the major questions that are relevant in this case: whether a human embryo or a human fetus has a moral value and in case if it does, is it entitled to human rights possessed by the members of human family already born, whether abortions are ethically permissible and should the society limit, ban or facilitate abortions (Tooley et al. 2009). It should be stressed that the debate over the moral and legal facets of abortions started long ago and have led to formation of two major moral stances on the issue: pro-life/anti-abortion and pro-choice/pro-abortion.

The pro-choice movement has always argued in favor of a woman's right to choose abortion to prevail over a child's right to be born stating that the very burden of childbearing is inter alia a clear interference with a mother's right to privacy and her right to control her body, which deprives her from many educational and professional opportunities as well as equal standing in the societ y. The proponents of this moral stance argue that in cases where human personhood is not proven, which is the case with pregnancies when a fetus has not yet reached a point of viability,1 a woman should have unrestricted right to decide whether to continue with her pregnancy or not. Many in this group do not consider a fetus to be a person, i.e. a human being that has reached a point of viabilit y, before they are born. Others consider its rights to be very limited against the rights of those that have already been born, parents or other siblings. For instance, one of the famous arguments in this regard was presented by Judith Jarvis Thomson, well known for the use of series of thought experiments to justify the philosophical points she presented. Thomson believed that although a fetus was assumed to be a human being having a right to life, a right to choose abortion should prevail as a woman should have a right to control her body without any external interference. She referred to justifications of the right to life of a fetus as "slippery slope arguments" and put forward the thought experiment with the violinist plugged for a certain period of time into a woman's body, against her will, to survive. So, the woman had to choose whether to unplug a violinist thus killing him or wait nine months to enable him to survive (Thomson 1995). …

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