INTRODUCTION happen to consider these facets and proceed

 

INTRODUCTION

 The
characteristically provocative passage from Geoff Dyer’s Out of Sheer Rage: “People need to feel that they
have been thwarted by circumstances from pursuing the life which, had they led
it, they would not have wanted; whereas the life they really want is a compound
of all those thwarting circumstances… That’s why children are so convenient:
you have children because you are struggling to get by as an artist – which is
actually what being an artist means- or failing to get on with your career.
Then you can persuade yourself that children had prevented you from having this
career that had never looked like working out”, it throws light upon the  present day scenario of  women who are childless either by chance or
by choice and as to the way the society enforces the huge amount of stigma
towards the childless women per se. 1 in 5 women in the UK and USA is now reaching their
mid-forties without having children. This cohort of women is diverse in other
ways, but many of them are liberated and thoughtful about the way to shape
their lives, the choices that our ancestors didn’t have. However, there still
are instanced when such choices weigh heavily upon them making them wish that
had such stigmas did not exist at all. 1

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Thus the aforesaid article deals with the issue of
childlessness and its growth all across the world due to various reasons. There
are lots of prejudices attached to the childless couple by the society and
preconceptions are drawn with regard to their sexuality, race or any other
personal aspect, even if the decision of not bearing a child may be wholly
based on some other factors or even out of choice. Considering the population
boom in many countries across the world and the rate of poverty due to unequal
distribution of wealth, having a child and adding to the population is one bane.
So when it comes to being childless out of choice, most couples or any individual
happen to consider these facets and proceed with the decision of involving
themselves in charitable work than to bear a child of their own.

Apart from the choice factor, there are
health factors too that contribute to the issue to childlessness. The highly
sedentary lifestyle coupled with the other environmental factors have led to
deterioration in health of both genders that cause reproducing a tough task and
might lead to many complications and birth defects in a child. As per (World
Health Organization) WHO reports, it is difficult to determine the global infertility prevalence, due to the presence of both male
and female factors which complicate any estimate which may only address the
woman and an outcome of a pregnancy diagnosis or live birth.

As per the
Demographic and Health Surveys from 1990, in collaboration with the WHO,
completed in 2004,  it was derived that one
in every four couples in developing countries had been found to be affected by
infertility, and the evaluation of responses was generated from the women
while conducting overall 277 health surveys. The burden remains high upon
the women as most of the social prejudices and blames are attached to them
whereas both men and women can equally be the factors behind not having the
potential to reproduce. A WHO study, published at the end of 2012, has shown
that the overall burden of infertility in women from 190 countries has remained
similar in estimated levels and trends from 1990 to 2010.2

The numerous stigmas attached with
childlessness whether it’s by choice or by chance is remarked with insults
which are gender specific and generally it’s the women who has to undergo such
discrimination even when men are equally responsible for the causes. A women
not bearing child are prone to constant social scrutiny and are tagged as
selfish as motherhood is glorified by the society as one that makes a women
“complete” which is utterly obsolete. The
childless are barred from the special taxes and other forms of discrimination
in many developing countries.

Socio-religious
norms place a high premium on procreation as progeny ensure continuity of
family. They are also required to perform all the religious rites for the
family as per the rules of Sapinda
under Hindu Law. For Hindu women barrenness is deemed to be a curse. Bearing
children, especially a male child, ensures certification and redemption for a
woman. People make alternate plans to have children and adoption is one option
they opt for being at par with the society and succumbing to the undue social pressure.
The social purpose of adoption is to provide ‘the most desirable means of
ensuring family life’. Some couples adopt a child in the hope that parenting
will help them to overcome infertility.3

 

In the matter of recent politics, many
different sides with regard to prejudices as well as acceptance of
childlessness can be witnessed. For instance, childless politicians are charged
with not having a proper stake in the society and that they don’t have
potential to device the future of any country as accused by Jean-Marie-Le Pen,
the co-founder of National Front Party upon Emmanuel Macron. Many such attacks
were inflicted upon many Politicians during the course of political campaign.
Leaders such as Theresa May, British politician who has served as Prime Minister
and Angela Merkel, German politician and Chancellor of Germany and the leader of
the Christian Democratic Union. And the matter of utmost surprise is that most
of the voters too agree to such discriminating remarks that portrays the
condition of our society where an individual is judged on the basis of his/her
ability to procreate, which makes it feasible for harboring these
discriminating thought and passing comments with the intention for personal
attacks in any public ceremony.

 

Considering the aforesaid facts of the
article it can be easily derived that the freedom to choose as to how to live
is somewhat curbed due to the social stigma even in personal sphere. With the
change in environmental factors and lifestyle, infertility has been a common
issue. Women are now more inclined towards career and have equal contribution
towards the maintenance of the family and household so the aspect of having
kids takes a backseat and in due course of time, various biological factors
make it a difficult prospect altogether. The most notable trend is the growing
number of women who remain childless altogether. Since the 1970s the figure has
shown a steady rise. In the UK in 1991 twice as many women as in 1986 stated
that they expected to remain childless. Having kids now have become a matter of
choice rather than a mandate especially in the cosmopolitan environment. With
the advent of legalizing homosexuality in most countries, the natural process
of procreation too has taken back seat abruptly. Many childless adults continue
to have contact with children in a range of aspects of their lives through
partners, relatives or friends. Opportunities also arise for childless adults
to be involved in the lives of children through community initiatives and the
eradication of child poverty on a global scale through sponsorship and wider
redistributive initiatives. Childless couples are more inclined towards charity
and involvement in social causes as compared to the couples having children as
more of their income portion goes into the maintenance of their respective
children. Moreover with the steep rise in population in most developing
countries, not having a child are more and more encouraged considering the
scenario of resource distribution and fast depletion of most of the resources.

 

LEGISLATIONS

Childfree
adults are voicing against discrimination
these days. Maternity
and paternity leave is routinely given to parents of newborn children, but
other employees are seldom if ever offered an equal amount of time off for
endeavors that are, to them, of equal value. Parents are given tax-breaks
for children, while childfree adults pay a higher percentage. Parents with
children under a certain age are allowed to bring them onto airplanes for free,
while travelers with small pets that
can fit in a travel case under the seat are charged substantial fees. 4

In the
case of ROE ET AL. v. WADE, DISTRICT ATTORNEY OF DALLAS COUNTY5,
an unmarried pregnant woman wishing to terminate her pregnancy by abortion
instituted an action seeking a declaratory judgment in the United States
District Court for the Northern District of Texas, that the Texas criminal
abortion statutes, which prohibited abortions except with respect to those
procured or attempted by medical advice for the purpose of saving the life of
the mother, were unconstitutional. A separate action, similar to that filed by
the unmarried, pregnant woman, was filed by a married, childless couple, who
alleged that should the wife become pregnant at some future date, they would
wish to terminate the pregnancy by abortion. The two actions were consolidated
and heard together by a three-judge District Court, which held that (1) the
unmarried, pregnant woman and the physician had standing to sue, (2) the
married, childless couple’s complaint should be dismissed because they lacked
standing to sue.

Thus
even in countries like USA, voluntary childlessness is considered
unconstitutional, where apart from health issue of the woman concerned, she
cannot opt for abortion on the pretext of her decision to remain childless.

Childless
couples are devoid of family-friendly benefits having increased considerably
over the last forty years. The benefits ensured to couples having children or a
“family” per se fall into three categories: (1) alternative work arrangements;
(2) leave time; and (3) dependent care services and assistance. Alternative
work arrangements include, among other things, modified daily start and stop
times, compressed work weeks, part-time work, schedule swaps, job sharing, and
telecommuting. Leave time includes maternity and paternity leaves, paid sick
leave for an employee or her family member, and authorized leave under statutes
like the Family and Medical Leave Act6.
Dependent care services and benefits include, among other things, on-site childcare
centers, vouchers to subsidize childcare costs, and tuition benefits. At times,
family-friendly benefits are embodied in formal policies (e.g., maternity and
paternity leaves), and at other times they are merely informal practices (e.g.,
a supervisor’s exercise of discretion in deciding whether to grant a schedule
adjustment).7

Under the Hindu Succession Act8,
if a childless widowed woman dies intestate, the property owned by her
goes back to the source it came from. The self-acquired properties, however,
is transferred to her in-laws. 

Under the Shia law,
a Muslim widow not having any children shall be entitled to inherit one –
fourth share of the movable property belonging to her deceased husband.
However, a widow with children or childless widow is entitled to one – eighth
of the deceased husband’s property.9

Couples are not given the option of chosen childlessness in
the biblical revelation under the law of the Church. To the contrary, it is
commanded to receive children with joy as God’s gifts, and to raise them in the
nurture and admonition of the Lord. Chosen childlessness is termed as an
epidemic will not be corrected by secular rethinking. 10
Thus
considering the social, legal and religious scenario depicted above, it can be
concluded as, bearing a child is a matter of consent which involves detailed
planning, so it should be left to the concerned adults and the couples to decide
as to how they want to create their personal sphere. For the most charismatic
leaders of the five of the G7 countries like Mr. Macron, Mrs May, Mrs Merkel,
Shinzo Abe and Paolo Gentiloni are childless in contrary to which Donald Trump
has 5 children which sarcastically derives the contradiction. Also the Prime
Minister of India Narendra Modi does not have any child which is far better
than having a child like Rahul Gandhi. Furthermore Hilary Mantel, PG Wodehouse,
the Bronte sisters and Jane Austen had no progeny but did give birth to
numerous creative beauty endured by the world since generations.

*********

 

                                                                                   By
:

                                                                                 
Ananya Das

                                                                                  
LLM student,

                                                         
Symbiosis Law School,  Pune

1 Gateway Women, The
Gateway Women Manifesto: are childless women the new suffragettes?
https://gateway-women.com/the-nomos-manifesto-are-childless-women-the-new-suffragettes/,
(15th August 2017, 11:15 am. IST)

 

2
World Health Organization, Human Reproduction Programme, Sexual and Reproductive Health, http://www.who.int/reproductivehealth/topics/infertility/burden/en/, (15th August, 2017, 10:00 am
IST)

3
Sayeed Unisa, Sucharita Pujari, and Sujata Ganguly, Child Adoption Patterns among Childless Couples Evidence from Rural
Andhra Pradesh, Vol 73, Issue 1, Pg. 2.

4 Ellen Walker, Discrimination Against
Childfree Adults,
https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/complete-without-kids/201105/discrimination-against-childfree-adults, (18th
August 2017, 11:00 am. IST)

5 410 U.S. 113 (1973)

6
Act of 1993

7
Arizona State Law Journal, Trina Jones, Single
and childfree! Reassessing parental and marital status discrimination, Pg.
13.

8
Act of 1956

9 Harsha Asnani, What are the Rules
Governing Inheritance of Property under Muslim Law, https://blog.ipleaders.in/rules-governing-inheritance-property-muslim-law/,
(18th August 2017, 12:00 pm. IST)

10
Albert Mohler, Deliberate Childlessness: Moral Rebellion With a New Face, http://www.beliefnet.com/faiths/2005/06/deliberate-childlessness-moral-rebellion-with-a-new-face.aspx,(18th
August, 2017, 12:15 pm. IST)

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