Numerous scholarly articles have proved a positive correlation between gender inequality and better healthcare for women.
Gender Inequality in Indian Culture:
Gender inequality in India, a cultural baggage coming from years of systemic oppression has resulted in women being denied access to quality healthcare. Some of it is a result of insufficient funding towards healthcare, but it is also unquestionably true that patriarchal attitudes and regressive social mores combine to ensure that women don’t get enough access to healthcare.
A system built on attitudes which consider women inferior to men is unlikely to prioritise women’s healthcare. The well-documented preference for a male child in India leads to male children receiving the available resources first, including but not limited to healthcare.
UNICEF data about Malnutrition in Women:
UNICEF India terms child under-nutrition a “very much gender-based issue”. According to the organisation, girls represent up to 68% of the severely malnourished who admit for recovery programs. This is due to women’s nutritional needs not being met during pregnancy and youth as well as the intergenerational cycle of undernutrition that passes from mother to child. Providing food is seen as a woman’s duty but women are not empowered to possess the means to obtain food.
Women's Autonomy is the Solution:
An oft-cited solution to this problem is improving women’s autonomy. Unfortunately, cultural taboos act as an embargo to increasing women’s autonomy. The family remains the most important social unit in Indian society and it is the rules of the patriarchy that reign supreme.
The false social construct of ‘a pure, virginal woman’ is valorized. Thereafter, the sexual knowledge is have been seeing as shameful and likely to ‘corrupt’ women. This results in a large number of women remaining ignorant about sexual health, contraception and the changing flow of their own bodies. Numerous cultural traditions further misreport this picture.
For instance, menstruating women are banned from entering spaces or performing their daily tasks. All of this, coupled with a tendency to remain silent on such issues, leads many women to believe that menstruation is ‘dirty’, rather than natural. This belief is so prevalent that until recently many women accepted the sexist reason that kept menstruating women out of Sabarimala temple for fears of supposedly ‘polluting’ space.
Indian Women’s Reproductive Health:
Women’s reproductive health is another important cornerstone of women’s health that goes largely ignored.
India has one of the world’s largest maternal mortality rates. Adolescent mothers are more at risk of developing complications during pregnancy both before and after delivery.
In states like Rajasthan, where child marriage remains a rampant cultural practice, teenage mothers are more effects to
- Postpartum haemorrhage
- Preterm delivery and
- Low birth weight.
The fact that undernourished women are likely to suffer from anaemia is also a factor for maternal death.
Why poorer women are unavailable for Essential Healthcare Services?
Furthermore, essential services like blood transfusions and caesarian sections are not available to poorer women due to
- Chronic understaffing and
- Lack of funding allocated to government health clinics.
Women’s reproductive health is rarely prioritised, and a woman from an economically weak background or a geographically remote area is twice as likely to suffer.
In the case of Women's Mental Health Issues:
Culturally, one of the biggest blanks drawn is in the field of women’s mental health. South Asian and African communities, treats mental health issues are not present. There is a bias to view mental health issues as a ‘Western import’. Often, mental health issues stigmatise to the people who are suffering from, doubly so in the case of women.
In India, over twenty-thousand housewives commit suicide each year. In fact, data released by the National Crime Records Bureau reveals that 17% of suicides in India, committed by housewives, particularly higher than farmer suicides.
Yet, these issues had not noticed in the media and in conversations. This quiet epidemic is killing more women each year because they are not able to speak to family members and friends about their depression or get medical help. This tendency to minimise women’s health concerns is a product of a culture that trivialises women.
Even as India makes strides with medical innovations, the lack of effort taken to combat patriarchal conventions. This will only make India a mortal place for gender inequality that is apathetic to women’s physical and mental well-being.