Reproductive coercion is a topic that does not receive enough attention, yet it begins in childhood. I’ve written about reproductive coercion before regarding sex trafficking of minors and the normalization of forced motherhood in the Somali community. In this blog post, I will discuss the 5 signs of reproductive coercion and how to recognize them. I will discuss the literature, data trends, and even include personal testimony. GabarIskuFilan is the first ever radical Somali feminist blog. I discuss trends and issues that have not yet been written about publicly. GabarIskuFilan’s ultimate mission is to galvanize women to pursue a self-determined life.
1. Denying access to birth control
Denying access to birth control (i.e. refusal to educate, withholding financial assistance, denying expertise from sex educators) is a sign of reproductive coercion. When I was in middle school, I was forbidden from learning about my body, safe practices, recognizing sexual assault and understanding risks. I didn’t receive accurate and comprehensive sex education until college. Denying information, resources, and expertise about birth control and safe sex practices is reproductive coercion. This puts women at risk of unintended pregnancies and discourages bodily autonomy. Bodily autonomy is defined as the right to self-govern one’s body without external coercion or influence.
2. Grooming young girls to equate Success with Reproduction
Grooming young girls into equating their success and worth to reproduction is also a sign of reproductive coercion. I learned how to change diapers before I could read. I was not prepared for the life I have now. Grooming begins as early as six years old. Grooming young girls involves enforcing rules, monitoring behavior, controlling aspects of their lives including money management, career choices and even movement. This is the groundwork necessary to build up a tolerance to coercive behavior from a male intimate partner. Being accustomed to giving up your power is the easiest way for an abuser to manipulate a person’s decision-making ability as an adult.
3. Normalizing forced Motherhood
“My mom had 10 kids! Isn’t immigrant life awesome?” Did you ever stop to ask if she had a choice? It is highly probable that she did not have decision-making power over her reproductive capacity. This could be due to many factors including immigration status, domestic violence, language barriers, medical neglect, and religious dogma. Forced motherhood is legitimized as a wife’s marital duty. I am the first woman in my family’s legacy who was not forced into motherhood. I am also the first one to earn my own living, travel solo, enjoy the freedom of movement, access to reproductive healthcare and most importantly, a self-determined life. Being in control of my reproductive decision-making power is imperative to self-determination and bodily autonomy.
4. Legalizing marital Rape
All 50 states had outlawed marital rape by 1993. This wasn’t that long ago. Marital rape does happen. The denial of its existence is rooted in ownership over women’s bodies. Lawmakers are continuing to find loopholes by imposing exemptions to marital rape laws. This includes barring victims from pressing charges against the perpetrator. Marital rape is also permissible in Islam. I grew up being told I always had to say “yes” because this was my “marital duty.” I was discouraged from exercising bodily autonomy. I was forced into accepting a life of coercive and abusive behavior that was normalized as “love.” Because of feminism, I am now equipped to recognize reproductive coercion and spiritual abuse while also exercising bodily autonomy and decision-making power over my life.
5. Demonizing feminism & the women’s liberation movement
Demonizing feminism is an integral part of reproductive coercion. Feminist movements have made it possible for women to open a bank account, have the right to vote, instituted laws to protect women against workplace sexual harassment and marital rape, and also the right to seek higher education. Also, equal pay for equal work. I am able to live the life I could’ve never imagined because of feminism and the women’s liberation movement. I was brainwashed into believing that feminism tears families apart. Women are “natural caregivers.” Lol. Feminism taught me that these lies only benefit men. I could live a radically different life than the one I was accustomed to. Feminism taught me that everything I want out of my life is within reach.
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