WON’T YOU RESCUE YOUR BABIES?
by Major M. P. Vora
The Social Service Quarterly
The Organ of Social Service League
Volume No. LV, No.3 of January 1970
Page No. 82 to 86
Sex is natural, irresistible and healthy for the young adult. Its censure and rejection is illogical. Total indifference to it suggests denial of one’s human instinct, which is natural in a healthy person. The person who holds back sexually denies the true meaning of sex and life. This does not mean, of course, free sex or invitation to license. One has to steer a healthy course between repression and freedom. Sex within the frame work of love and marriage is valuable and serves the fulfillment of a man or a woman as a total being. Biologically, it affords the release of pent-up tension. Psychologically, through sex, one learns more about oneself. It is a way of achieving profound relatedness to another being at the same time fulfilling one’s own individuality. Participation in marriage is a great drama of human existence, which often follows the period of pre-marital romance.
The romance of a young couple sooner or later ends in a happy marriage and then in a happy trio. Very soon the infant becomes the hub of the family interest. The problem of the child centers round the institution commonly known as marriage, which is chiefly concerned with the preservation of social stability. The child does not come into the world of its own free will but is the product of mutual efforts, love, affection and understanding. It is therefore the bounden duty of the parents and the socialist state as well to see and ensure that the innocent baby is given the security of health and perfect life. Enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health is one of the fundamental rights of every human being without distinction of race, religion, political belief, economic or social condition.
But, do the engaged couple ever think of or make necessary premarital preparation for the happy event? The answer is often in the negative. The would-be wife may spend days and weeks attending to the details of her wedding dress and ornaments; the groom may like-wise show great care in choosing his clothes, selecting presents, arranging reception and dinner but neither of them gives even a cursory thought to what is the most important point to ensure the healthy arrival of their first-born. Very often and possibly never does either of them ever give a passing thought to this very important problem. And the tainted child is sometimes the result of this negligence on the part of the couple casting a dark shadow on the future of the new-born.
Now-a-days, most of the engaged couples discuss openly the subject like spacing of children, nursery, family planning, the size of the family etc and come to conclusions and look forward with great joy and happiness to the event of the birth of a child. However, one is at loss to know why the couple should not then be further inclined to be ‘health-minded’ and discuss in premarital confidences the advisability of consulting their family doctor in matters which vitally concern the health of their future children. In fact every couple must think and act accordingly when they are informed. This is especially applicable to those who have run a possible risk of contagious infection.
In spite of existing ignorance and illiteracy of the majority people in the country, nobody would venture to say that the people do not have common sense and wisdom to help themselves, once they are sufficiently or adequately informed. Education of the people in regard to this subject is bound to bear good fruit. The enlightenment must reach the rural periphery to be of real value and purpose.
There are many health factors which have to be considered before the actual marriage, if one desires to prevent domestic tragedies of greater or lesser magnitude. Tuberculosis, leprosy, hemophilia, diabetes, muscular atrophy, muscular dystrophy, gout, myotonia congentia, amyotonia congentia, syphilis, Rh factor, leucoderma and gonorrhoea are very likely to confer certain harmful effects or consequences on the progeny. But of special importance among these are syphilis and gonorrhoea. The former can be transmitted to the offspring. The latter infection in the mother may set up severe conjunctivitis of the eyes in the new-born, resulting often in blindness. These effects are not only distressing but also heart-rending. Abortions, miscarriages, still-births and crippling permanent disabilities in the infants so called slaughter of the innocent, result due to syphilis. Besides, one has only to think of the perpetual and profound mental distress and anguish arising from the sterile marriage on account of these contagious infections. One-third of the children born, die of congenital syphilis within the first month of life. This high toll of infant mortality does not end there. About 25% of children in the schools for the blind, and 25% of mentally deficient children are considered to be living proofs of venereal infections. These instances are quite sufficient to break anybody’s heart.
Responsibility of bringing into the world a tainted child rests primarily on the individuals who go to form the family. Society has to protect itself against such individuals. Presumed rights of the individual cannot justifiably disregard the sum total of the rights of individuals who make up the community, demand elimination of risks to health and ask for protection against such hazards.
Any one who marries while in the infectious state is punished by laws in many advanced countries. In a number of advanced countries, pre-marital medical certificates, showing freedom from contagious infection and negative blood test for syphilis have to be produced before any marriage can be registered. Similarly no one is allowed to handle pregnancy without having the mother’s blood test for syphilis ante-natally, and providing necessary treatment, if she is found to be infected. The importance of these measures can never be exaggerated in the prevention of tragedies. It means the prevention of congenital syphilis in the innocent infant and there-by preventing future crippling disabilities in the child.
There can never be any diversity of opinion as to the value of these procedures in combating venereal diseases and protecting the national health. According to the report of the two doctors P.K.Candit and A.F.Brewer, who studied this problem, the pre-marital medical examination as a method of controlling the spread of venereal disease has proved very effective in preventing potential disabilities from V.D. and resulted in saving millions of dollars in a year in California alone. Can there be anything more impressive than this revelation?
From our point of view, there cannot be any serious difficulty over the enactment and introduction of law enforcing the production of a pre-marital health certificate including the blood test for syphilis, from persons intending to marry. As things now stand, every marriage is required to be registered in the country. To ask for the production of a health certificate from the intending wedding partners will not surely add any special difficulty or entail any additional work for the registrar of marriages. Machinary to enforce this procedure already exists in most of the cities in India.
In our country, it is not only desirable but also very urgent that we have similar legislative measures which already exist in most of the advanced countries to protect the health of the nation. Bodies like Association for moral and Social Hygiene, India and the Bombay Social Hygiene Council have already passed resolutions, requesting the authorities concerned to introduce similar measures in the country.
Can we afford to remain behind the times in a matter so closely related to the health of the public? Our policy must be to educate the people, to awaken the public conscience and to create in the public mind a profound impression about the seriousness of these diseases as well as to incite them to demand with one voice protective measures at the hands of the authorities.
It is now up to every responsible citizen of India to keep himself or herself well informed about the dangers involved in neglecting pre-marital medical examination and consultation. Let us therefore take our due share of responsibility in the struggle against venereal infections and in protecting the health of our children.