PETALING JAYA, Oct 26 — We’ve all heard a rendition of this story before.
Girl falls in love with boy, they have unprotected sex, and boy dumps girl once he realises there’s an unwanted pregnancy in the picture.
But what if the gender roles were reversed in this situation?
Malaysian filmmakers have partnered with sexual and reproductive health education group For Youth Initiative Kuala Lumpur (FYI KL) to explore this question in a short film series called XY - Gugurkan Stigma (XY - Abort the Stigma).
Each episode is based on real-life stories of abortion but the roles are gender-bent to underscore the need for couples to view unwanted pregnancies as a shared responsibility.
XY - Gugurkan Stigma is also backed by the Reproductive Rights Advocacy Alliance Malaysia (RRAAM), the Asia Safe Abortion Partnership, the Asian-Pacific Resource and Research Centre for Women, and the Safe Abortion Advocacy Initiative - A Global South Engagement to further highlight the importance of providing information about safe abortions.
One of the project’s production crew members, known as Pera, told Malay Mail that the short films presented a unique challenge to him as a filmmaker while prompting difficult questions for him to reflect on as a man.
He hopes the episodes will encourage viewers to empathise with the plight of women who have endured the emotional and physical burden of an unwanted pregnancy with little to no support.
“If the (gender) role is reversed, I can see I’m not just the person who caused this but I’m part of the after-effect too. Would I behave differently then?
“Will I let my partner do what she actually wants to do with her decision to bear a child or not? Do my words matter here?
“Why should I, as a man who doesn’t even go through all of this, dare to say what she should do?
“I want men to ask themselves these questions and more. I don’t care about the answers, just start asking,” said Pera.
The 27-year-old added that he had to be careful about portraying “pregnant” male characters as they are often seen in a comedic light on TV shows and films.
Ultimately, Pera hopes that XY - Gugurkan Stigma will spark open conversations about abortion and unwanted pregnancies instead of pushing the topic back into the shadows.
“I had to be very careful of the final product not becoming something comedic.
“Every time you see a man portrayed as pregnant, he is there to get the laughs so research was hard. We managed to create something that was an alternate reality and also did it tastefully.
“(Working on this) brought value to me and hopefully to anyone who watches it as well. If not, at least I hope it triggers something.”
FYI KL works with various organisations to ensure women are aware of the exact definition of the term “abortion”, the legalities surrounding the procedure, how safe abortions are performed, and where they can go to seek help.
Their goal is to ensure that any woman who is faced with an unwanted pregnancy is able to make an informed decision about her health and well-being.
FYI KL’s project lead Nuraini Rudi told Malay Mail that a creative approach is needed to create awareness about abortion due to the shame and stigma attached to the subject.
She said that it’s common for mainstream media to portray women who have abortions as one-dimensional as they are only seen as “full of guilt” and “negative emotions” over their decision.
Ensuring access to information about safe abortions is also another challenge as many people already have negative assumptions and biases when they hear the word “abortion.”
“When the word ‘abortion (gugur)’ is mentioned, most people tend to have their own judgement and it stops there. They did not ask why, how, or what.
“We need to provide Malaysians with the exact definition of the term abortion, explain Section 312 of the Penal Code, how the procedure is performed, options that individuals can choose for safe abortion, and why safe abortion is important.
“From there, we will be able to make a wise decision. That is what we call an informed choice.”
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