wonky policy

Trump's Global Gag Order will stop US-funded NGOs from providing legal abortion services in India

Studies have shown that the policy, in the past, has resulted in an increase in abortions around the world.

On Monday, President Trump, like every Republican president since Ronald Reagan, reinstated the Mexico City Policy. Referred to as the Global Gag Order, the polic will conclusively ban international aid organisations funded by the United States government from providing abortions, information on abortions or abortion counselling. The ruling came a mere 48 hours after millions of women staged a worldwide protest against Trump in a multi-city Women’s March. The executive order has also punctured holes in almost a decade’s worth of progress made by US healthcare workers and women’s activists internationally.

Trump has upheld the ideological rhetoric that uses the derogatory phrase “pro-life/anti-choice” to drive a wedge into the machinery of aid organisations and healthcare workers funded by the US, paralysing one of their most essential functions, which is to bridge the gap in reproductive and maternal health. The resultant collapse has far-reaching effects in the developing world, affecting the social and economic indicators of a country. Currently, the Guttmacher Institute’s data for 2016 reveals that $607.5 million in US aid has been used for family planning, which has granted 27 million women access to a basket of contraceptive choices, averted 6 million unintended pregnancies, and prevented 2.3 million abortions.

As past experience shows, the motion is counterproductive. It does not reduce the number of abortions as originally intended: instead, it has sweeping repercussions that will be felt in the areas of family planning and reproductive health, cervical scans, HIV services, and maternal and child health. The order effectively incapacitates women, especially in developing countries where the need for quality family planning services are higher, and leaves them vulnerable to unintended pregnancies, unsafe abortions, post-abortion care, and a higher rate of maternal deaths.

Several studies have found evidence that supports the damaging effects of the Global Gag Order that would be felt by women. The study on abortion United States aid policy and induced abortion in sub-Saharan Africa conducted by three researchers from Stanford University, which focuses on women in the age group of 15 to 44 from 20 African countries, suggests the Mexico City Policy – named for the venue of the United Nations International Conference on Population where it was announced in 1984 – is associated with an increase in abortions. Another study conducted by Pathfinder International found that between 2001 and 2009, before the Obama administration rescinded the gag rule, 20 countries in Africa, Asia, and the Middle-East lost access to contraceptives donated by US-funded agencies and several family planning clinics were forced to cut down services, staff, or shut down completely.

India’s clarity and commitment to abortion as a legal right is a significant stand and a matter of pride. In this case, the Global Gag Order will restrict non-government organisations who receive funding from the United States from providing a service that Indian women have a right to, legally. Almost 25 percent of the funds of USAID India is directed towards family planning and reproductive health services including medical termination of pregnancy, training, and information, eduation and communication – this is a critical stream of funding and will be affected severely. In the past, during the Bush administration, the ban also led to restricting funds to countries with laws that support abortion for any health related programs. In India, all NGOs do not have access to USAID or international funding; therefore, we will not be affected too badly.

Hindering women’s agency

The resurrection of the Global Gag Order also hinders organisations from advocating for the liberalisation or decriminalisation of abortion, thus limiting the discussion or killing it altogether. This will effectively undo the progress that has been made in women’s health on a global scale with regard to sexual and reproductive health and rights, reinforcing the inherent right women have on their bodies, the identity of young girls and women, and their agency.

President Trump’s attitude to women’s rights fits well within the restrictive order that is designed to destabilise women. The Mexico City Policy has been a callous, political game of back-and-forth, a punishing game that a mostly male administration has played with the female body for more than 30 years. What cannot be said is the scope and scale of the regressive order and the damage it will bring in its wake.

The time has come once again to call to action governments in other countries and private foundations globally to give a responsible, fitting response by increasing the funding for abortion and family planning. The nature of support we must extend goes beyond the purview of financial assistance to include moral support. The impact of the Global Gag Rule on US-based organisations like Planned Parenthood and their work in providing a safe space for abortion and other family planning programs is nothing short of demonic. In the current scenario, we must applaud the example of defiance set by the Netherlands – their government has announced the launch of an international abortion fund of $600 million over four years, which will be crucial to healthcare workers in the coming months. International organisations like the United Nations Population Fund will need the support of a global community of champions to fulfill its responsibility to women.

The writer is executive director of the Population Foundation of India.

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“My body instantly craves chai and samosa”

German expats talk about adapting to India, and the surprising similarities between the two cultures.

The cultural similarities between Germany and India are well known, especially with regards to the language. Linguists believe that Sanskrit and German share the same Indo-Germanic heritage of languages. A quick comparison indeed holds up theory - ratha in Sanskrit (chariot) is rad in German, aksha (axle) in Sanskrit is achse in German and so on. Germans have long held a fascination for Indology and Sanskrit. While Max Müller is still admired for his translation of ancient Indian scriptures, other German intellectuals such as Goethe, Herder and Schlegel were deeply influenced by Kalidasa. His poetry is said to have informed Goethe’s plays, and inspired Schlegel to eventually introduce formal Indology in Germany. Beyond the arts and academia, Indian influences even found their way into German fast food! Indians would recognise the famous German curry powder as a modification of the Indian masala mix. It’s most popular application is the currywurst - fried sausage covered in curried ketchup.

It is no wonder then that German travellers in India find a quite a lot in common between the two cultures, even today. Some, especially those who’ve settled here, even confess to Indian culture growing on them with time. Isabelle, like most travellers, first came to India to explore the country’s rich heritage. She returned the following year as an exchange student, and a couple of years later found herself working for an Indian consultancy firm. When asked what prompted her to stay on, Isabelle said, “I love the market dynamics here, working here is so much fun. Anywhere else would seem boring compared to India.” Having cofounded a company, she eventually realised her entrepreneurial dream here and now resides in Goa with her husband.

Isabelle says there are several aspects of life in India that remind her of home. “How we interact with our everyday life is similar in both Germany and India. Separate house slippers to wear at home, the celebration of food and festivals, the importance of friendship…” She feels Germany and India share the same spirit especially in terms of festivities. “We love food and we love celebrating food. There is an entire countdown to Christmas. Every day there is some dinner or get-together,” much like how Indians excitedly countdown to Navratri or Diwali. Franziska, who was born in India to German parents, adds that both the countries exhibit the same kind of passion for their favourite sport. “In India, they support cricket like anything while in Germany it would be football.”

Having lived in India for almost a decade, Isabelle has also noticed some broad similarities in the way children are brought up in the two countries. “We have a saying in South Germany ‘Schaffe Schaffe Hausle baue’ that loosely translates to ‘work, work, work and build a house’. I found that parents here have a similar outlook…to teach their children to work hard. They feel that they’ve fulfilled their duty only once the children have moved out or gotten married. Also, my mother never let me leave the house without a big breakfast. It’s the same here.” The importance given to the care of the family is one similarity that came up again and again in conversations with all German expats.

While most people wouldn’t draw parallels between German and Indian discipline (or lack thereof), Germans married to Indians have found a way to bridge the gap. Take for example, Ilka, who thinks that the famed differences of discipline between the two cultures actually works to her marital advantage. She sees the difference as Germans being highly planning-oriented; while Indians are more flexible in their approach. Ilka and her husband balance each other out in several ways. She says, like most Germans, she too tends to get stressed when her plans don’t work out, but her husband calms her down.

Consequently, Ilka feels India is “so full of life. The social life here is more happening; people smile at you, bond over food and are much more relaxed.” Isabelle, too, can attest to Indians’ friendliness. When asked about an Indian characteristic that makes her feel most at home, she quickly answers “humour.” “Whether it’s a taxi driver or someone I’m meeting professionally, I’ve learnt that it’s easy to lighten the mood here by just cracking a few jokes. Indians love to laugh,” she adds.

Indeed, these Germans-who-never-left as just diehard Indophiles are more Indian than you’d guess at first, having even developed some classic Indian skills with time. Ilka assures us that her husband can’t bargain as well as she does, and that she can even drape a saree on her own.

Isabelle, meanwhile, feels some amount of Indianness has seeped into her because “whenever its raining, my body instantly craves chai and samosa”.

Like the long-settled German expats in India, the German airline, Lufthansa, too has incorporated some quintessential aspects of Indian culture in its service. Recognising the centuries-old cultural affinity between the two countries, Lufthansa now provides a rich experience of Indian hospitality to all flyers on board its flights to and from India. You can expect a greeting of Namaste by an all-Indian crew, Indian food, and popular Indian in-flight entertainment options. And as the video shows, India’s culture and hospitality have been internalized by Lufthansa to the extent that they are More Indian Than You Think. To experience Lufthansa’s hospitality on your next trip abroad, click here.

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This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Lufthansa as part of their More Indian Than You Think initiative and not by the Scroll editorial team.