Still Blaming the Stars?

Wanted – Fair, educated Brahmin Girl.

Wanted – Tall, handsome, NRI boy

Boy meets girl. No time for love. Horoscopes matched. Astrologer paid. Wedding fixed.

Whoever said marriages are made in heaven?

Matches are made as quickly as birth charts can be read. Palms are analyzed and it is decided that the girl in question is perfect for a secure future with the boy. I wonder if palm-creases can confirm the existence of the AIDS virus in the body, or the quiet growth of sexually transmitted bacteria, or perhaps, the blood type which if found deficient in any way, could lead to a post-marital disaster for the co-habituating couple by jeopardizing the young one’s health.

Realizing this fact in the year 2008, (better late than never!), certain state governments have taken to implementing laws that would combat the dangers a couple could face due to the ignorance that is rampant in our highly vulnerable society. The Maharashtra Health Ministry has proposed that testing for the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is to be made compulsory before marriage, an initiative which is the first of its kind in India. Dr Vimaltai Mundada, the Health Minister of Maharashtra says that it is still undecided whether the couples will need to provide a medical certificate to officially register their matrimony in the court of law.

Slowly but surely, the social stigma attached with such a situation is fading away. This is due to individuals being aware of the increasing health risks that they are subjecting  themselves to by not taking such a test prior to their marriage. Doctors are warming up to this idea and are offering pre-martial health check ups to couples.

One such commendable effort is the collaborative venture of –  India’s leading matrimonial website, that provides prospective brides and grooms online and Metropolis Health Services Private Limited, a private healthcare institute. Due to projects such as these, the growth of awareness among the users is huge since such websites enjoy a very wide reach among the Indian masses. A health initiative of this variety not only eradicates ignorance but also prevents the risk of acquiring sexually transmitted diseases, or of passing on dreaded genetic disorders to the children begotten of the marriage.

However, upon viewing from an alternate perspective, the good intentions of the project seem to be going awry owing to the unplanned consequences. According to certain social scientists, this issue is falling into two distinct ideologies., The first being, ‘the right to privacy’ and the second being ‘the right to life’. The right to life perspective holds the mandatory test policy in good stead, emphasizing that such a test is absolutely essential to eradicate not only the disease, but also its future social risk. However, the ‘right to privacy’ questions such a policy – what would happen in the Indian society if the couple discovers that one (or both) of them is a carrier of the AIDS virus? In our country, such people are ostracized and made victims of social prejudice. It is also believed that making such information about an AIDS patient accessible to the public would directly affect the individual’s prospects of employability, happy social life and the like.

Health officials also voice their concerns over the fact that the virus can breed in the human body for several months, hence making the entire process of the health check up an entirely futile one. Additionally, it seems that the laws would stifle the implementation of the policy that the Maharastra Government has introduced, this is because the guidelines of the National Aids Control Organization clearly state that no individual can be forced into taking the HIV test.

Despite its apparent benefits, human rights activists have labeled this as a potentially destructive scheme, and envisage the social structure in tatters due to the discrimination that the implementation of such a policy would bring about.

Neha Bhatt

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