Though worldwide the life expectancy of females at birth is more than men – 68.2 years for men and 73.2 years for women, in India, however, the life expectancy for both sexes is the same, and yet, there are many reasons as to why women die sooner due to neglect over the years.
Women’s Health is linked to the status of women in society and the culture that brews within this structure. There are a lot of health issues that mushroom from the socio-economic scenario. There are Women’s Health issues that women face which include breast cancer, ovarian cancer, PCOS, menopause, and others but there are a few health conditions that we tend to ignore or overlook that are killing our women.
These include; death during childbirth, illiteracy and ignorance, violent attacks on women, etc.
Overall, these factors adversely impact women’s health; mental and physical well-being. Further, a woman’s ill health affects not only her as an individual, but her family suffers too.
- Multiple and frequent pregnancies: The Indian society is obsessed with a male child, and hence, women are often forced to get pregnant often for want of a son. Even though everyone is aware of a woman’s nutritional needs during pregnancy, it is not meted out to them, and numerous pregnancies, abortions even in case of female child and closely spaced births, adds to deteriorating health and nutritional status.A mother-to-be should be provided with sufficient recovery time to regain the nutritional strength that she lost during pregnancy and post childbirth. After multiple pregnancies, the uterus muscles become weak and may fail to contract post-delivery. This condition can result in postpartum haemorrhage, i.e. excessive loss of blood after delivery. Unfortunately, over 100000 women die each year from pregnancy-related causes in India.
- Ignorance and illiteracy: Poverty, illiteracy, and superstitions play an essential role in determining the health of a woman. It is estimated that 16% of the population in the rural areas stay more than 10kms away from any medical facilities. Poor hygienic conditions can lead to many diseases like human papillomavirus (HPV) infection which leads to cervical cancer. It could also lead to genital warts, urinary tract infection (UTI) and other serious health issues.
- Lack of Nutrition: Lack of knowledge about dietary pattern during pregnancy and breastfeeding stages is crucial, but in most cases, the women are not aware or ignorant towards maternal and reproductive health. Women and girls are typically the last to eat in a family; thus, if there is not enough food, they are the ones to suffer most resulting in medical conditions like anaemia, malnourishment, etc. More than half of women suffer from anaemia, caused by malaria, hookworm infestation and from inadequate intake of iron and folic acid. Majority of births take place at home in India and out of these most are not under the guidance or surveillance of any trained medical practitioner. These women receive no prenatal care, and these factors result in higher maternal mortality rates in India.
- Skewed Sex Ratio: The Census of India 2011 has shown the lowest child sex ratio since India’s independence in 1947. The rate has dropped to 914 females for every 1,000 male children between 0 to 6 years old. This indicates the society’s preference for a male child. This leads to women getting a sex determination test, multiple abortions, or most commonly in rural areas, this leads to female infanticide. In most villages the girl child is killed as soon she is born, or she’s left to starve. In most families the girl child is often neglected, she doesn’t receive sufficient nutrition and care. Diarrhoea remains one of the major killers of young girls and a formidable challenge to the health system. Girls bearing their first baby in teenage are at obstetric risk and subsequently of low birth weight babies and perinatal complications.
- Violent Crime against Women: Violence against women is also a health problem, but it is sadly not considered one and ignored. Every five minutes a violent crime is reported against women in India. This is a serious issue because it depletes a woman’s emotional and physical strength. There aren’t enough rehabilitation homes in our country that cater to victims of such crime. Most hospitals wouldn’t touch the cases because of their ‘criminal’ nature. The stigma and taboo attached to rape and domestic violence prevents women from speaking up. They often end up enduring the pain and abuse.
As a society, we need to actively work towards providing our women good health because a healthy woman ensures a healthy family. Women are not the weaker sex; the society has made them so. We need more awareness drives, camps that educate rural women on the issues mentioned above, campaigns and projects that will help change mindsets and help save our women!