The recent outbreak of the Zika virus has created turbulence in both medical and political fields. The virus is similar to the dengue virus as it is spread by the same mosquitoes. Symptoms include fever, rash, joint pain, or conjunctivitis (red eyes), and then the illness goes away within a couple of days. What they are finding now is that this virus can be sexually transmitted and is spreading explosively. The movement to find a cure to the disease and a solution to keep rest of the population safe has been in the news on every channel. The issue on whether athletes from Zika-infected regions should participate in the coming Olympics is resulting in heated debates. However, through this impetuous progression, the true colors of women’s rights and its correlation with socio-economic static are starting to emerge. One of the places where Zika viruses are often found is in Brazil, which is also home to the world’s strictest abortion laws.
Women are being advised to avoid pregnancy until a proper cure and/or treatment is found. However, it is obvious that telling women not to get pregnant in a region of the world where birth control contraception is not readily available is far from being a smart move. Many argue that while it is logical to ask women to stay abstinent from procreation, it is imprudent not hold classes on sexual and reproductive health. Women who are pregnant are asking for abortions to avoid birthing a child who may have microcephaly, a birth defect where babies are born with abnormally small heads and incomplete brain development. They are denied on the grounds that abortions are only legal if the mother was raped or her life is at risk. The stigma of abortions can also be linked back to the heavy Catholic influences over the region where abortions and using contraceptives are equivalent to murdering a living child.
The Zika virus outbreak has shed light to the world on women’s reproductive rights in South America. The correlation between this epidemic and social inequality are very much evident. Those who contract the Zika virus are commonly women who live in the communities’ least developed regions. The women who are living here are young poor women of black and brown color. These women are the ones that are working in ungodly poor working conditions and therefore contract the virus. These are the same women who receive the least sexual and reproductive health care supplies. Their rich upper class counterpart women have access to be able to afford safe (illegal) abortions. Women who live in poverty have doctors perform abortions in hazardous procedures.
Zika virus is a reality check to the world on how much further women’s right has to go. Scaring women by calling them sinners and murderers are not labels we should be putting on women for wanting to take charge of their bodies. It is okay for women to have their own beliefs on what to do with their body, but the government does not have that authority.
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