Seminar on Advancing Feminist Debates on Reproductive Technologies

The development, use, and consolidation of a wide range of reproductive technologies in today’s world pose challenges—old and new—to feminist politics. Not only is access to technologies mediated by axes of gender, sexuality, class, caste, religion, dis/ability, etc., the design and deployment of technologies occurs within regimes of power that determine their nature and use. Both conceptive and contraceptive technologies are proliferating; along with their popularity, the implications of their use are also rising. What does this mean for progressive feminist politics that seeks to extend beyond a rights framework and address questions of structure and justice? How do we understand autonomy and choice vis-à-vis women’s bodies in the context of reproductive technologies in the contemporary moment? Do older feminist positions need to be revisited, and do newer concerns need to articulated?

A day-long seminar in April, organized by Sama- Resource Group for Women and Health, in Delhi, seeks to engage with these questions, and to build feminist discourse through collective reflection. This seminar will comprise of two sessions that follow the format of presentations followed by discussion.

Assisted Reproductive Technologies and Sexuality

The provisioning of ARTs in India, though unregulated, has grown into a veritable fertility industry in recent years. As expensive technologies with low success rates and significant health risks that glorify motherhood, these technologies are problematic from a feminist perspective. Yet, they are also delinking biology—indeed sex—from  reproduction by making it possible for gay individuals and couples to have biologically related children. Does this constitute a subversive reworking of the heteronormative family, or does it merely reinforce the institution of family? Do ARTs challenge the ideology behind marriage and sex for procreation, by disentangling the sperm, ova and womb, or do they merely shift the contours of biology, while keeping intact the determinism at its core? This session seeks a queer feminist engagement with ARTs, including with advocacy on related provisions of the Draft ART (Regulation) Bill and Rules 2010, and with questions of adoption, and the use of ARTs by HIV positive persons.

PCPNDT and Feminist Reflections

Against the backdrop of India’s low—and still declining—sex  ratio, feminist voices continue to uphold the ban on sex selective abortion alongside defending women’s right to abort. Yet, our own hierarchies of selection are in operation on the question of abortion. A feminist position that challenges the materiality of the body and the destiny of biology would necessarily see both gender and dis/ability as social constructs. However, feminist politics has responded differently to right to abort in these two instances. How do we understand and respond to a woman’s right over her body, vis-à-vis the rights of her “unborn child”, in a way that is both consistent and progressive? And how do we understand and define disability, including its point of origin, in a way that resonates with feminist principles we want to espouse?

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