Rape, by any stretch of the imagination, has to be a harrowing experience. Whether it is a woman, man or underage child who happens to be the victim, the experience is generally one which leaves indelible psychological, emotional, and sometimes physical scars that victims painfully carry for the remainder of their lives.
This response is totally understandable. Rape, after all, is the forceful violation of the sanctity of a person by another for the selfish fulfillment of his or her own sexual gratification. Explored from this perspective, rape arguably can be seen as a sin against the Divine – the creator and giver of life. At the same time, it is an affront to civilized society which holds that sexual relations should be based on mutual consent once the persons involved are of legal age.
Victims of rape, therefore, are deserving of compassion and support to provide them with a reasonable opportunity to heal from the ordeal instead of having to contend with issues that only add to the trauma of the experience. It is unfortunate in our society, which can be quite uncaring sometimes, that rape victims can sometimes find themselves on the receiving end of the harsh attitudes of some persons who insensitively suggest that the victims somehow may have contributed to their violation, especially females who were considered inappropriately or scantily dressed.
The issue of rape has received considerable prominence in the news and public discourse because of a number of developments over the past few weeks. The trigger of the debate, however, was the position put forward by Unborn Justice, a relatively new pro-life Christian group, that women who have conceived after experiencing the violence of rape, should be made to carry the children full term without recourse to the option of abortion. The group’s vision, as reportedly outlined by a spokeswoman, includes seeing “every unborn child’s purpose fulfilled”, even if that child happens to be product of a rape.
A number of pro-choice advocates have made vigorous responses to the stance of the group which is campaigning for an end to all abortions on the island. Though not stated, an obvious objective has to be the repeal of legislation which has provided women in Barbados with the right to choose to medically terminate a pregnancy on certain specific grounds and in a safe environment for more than two decades.
Contending that all life is scared because it comes from God, pro-lifers argue that victims of rape, with God’s help, can come to love their unborn child. While such might have happened in some cases, given the emotional and psychological trauma which the mother would have endured, it is inconceivably a hard task because the child serves as a constant reminder of the ordeal.
Scripture which pro-lifers cite as the basis of their position, leaves no doubt that the institution of the family was divinely created to provide a loving, nurturing environment for children to be conceived and brought up in the fear of the Lord. However, a child conceived as a result of rape was denied such an opportunity. Conceived in an environment of violence, it is highly likely that the child, if born, will end up being unwanted, which is not good for its own development .
Some mothers are known for taking out their frustration on children through abuse after break-ups with the father. Imagine, therefore, the fate that possibly awaits a child which is the product of rape. Besides, what if the child is the product of incest, where a teenaged girl, for example, is raped and impregnated by her father? Should she be made to bring the child? Presumably, Unborn Justice’s position applies as well, but isn’t forcing the child to do so carries the risk of exposing the young mother to further pain?
The personal decision whether or not to have an abortion in the case of rape is an option that should be available to the mother after she has been provided with the necessary counselling. Denying women who have been raped the legal right to access medically provided termination does not mean they will retreat from pursuing that option if that is their intention In countries where abortions are illegal, as was the case here many years ago before the passage of the 1983 Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, such services are provided on the black market, sometimes with deadly consequences for the mother.
Is this a scenario we wish to see in Barbados in the 21st century? That’s the critical question on which we must ponder and then truthfully answer.