Do We Give Lesser Importance to Womenís Health in India as Compared to Menís Health?

Posted by Komal Mehta on Thu, Aug 25, 2016  
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Wait, before you dismiss this question casually and think ‘Oh no, not another feminist post’, please give some thought to the question in all honesty.

 

I want you to reflect back on the last time that your mom was not feeling well and she brushed it off because everyone including her thought that she had some high BP due to some emotional issues. She would sleep through the day and feel better. You attributed your constant girlfriend’s constant complaints body pain on periods. Or you off handedly dismissed your wife’s general weakness because women generally have low hemoglobin and low Vit D ‘usme kya hai!’.

 

I personally know of so many times that I have gone to a doctor and expressed concern about irregular periods or losing hair or even acne only for these concerns to be brushed off casually. Perhaps it’s also one of the reasons why women prefer going to woman doctors instead of male ones because their concerns are easily brushed off.



Irrespective of whether it is relatives or even doctors it has been my observation has been that, in this country, health issues of women in the family – whether major or minor – are taken far less seriously than those of men in the same family. It’s normal for a woman to have high BP because of some tensions in the family but if the man of the house has the same concerns his physical discomfort is given more attention because he works and has some ‘real’ responsibilities. Now I know that everyone will be quick to say that this does not happen in our house and defend themselves. To be fair it may not be true for all Indian families but it is definitely true for a huge number of them. It’s not because people are not concerned it’s just because they have been bought up that way. In a country where the women and girls of a family do not even get basic nourishment through food and meet a basic standard of living, medical care is costly and much lower in the hierarchy of needs.

 

Only recently I read an article in a leading daily about the apathy of parents of girls suffering from cancer. A lot of parents, especially those from small towns on India who bring their children to big city hospitals for cancer treatment think that if a girl get cancer, her life is over. They think that no one will marry them once they grow up because of the stigma attached to cancer and the fear of a re-occurrence that can happen anytime. Furthermore, many of these parents knowingly abandon the girl child and return back to where they came from, leaving the child, her health and fate in other people’s hands. In many cases parents even refuse to even get proper treatment for a child because for them her life is not worth anything once afflicted with cancer. When the families’ resources are already limited they choose to not spend any on the girl child. This is true across the medical spectrum, more men than women patients getting treatment for diabetes, cardiothoracic problems, transplants and even basic issues like anemia etc.

 

In such a scenario, how does one even begin to level the disparities in the provision of health care based on the gender of an individual? There is definitely a need for long term awareness and empathy towards this issue but you can start now by paying greater attention to all the women in your life.

 

  • First of all equality, empathy and concerns for every family member wellbeing is taught at home. The way to making a truly responsible individual, whether male or female, beings at home
  • Encourage all the members of the family to pay attention to small variations in health and don’t dismiss health concerns easily
  • Always encourage every member of the family to seek out medical opinion on a nagging issue than to ignore it. Also, incase of any health issues and ask a lot of questions and read upon the illness to gain more knowledge about it
  • Teach and encourage individuals the investment and importance of medical insurance in life
  • More than anything else, if any woman in your life is struggling health wise, give them a lot of support incase anything does go wrong. So many women in this country do not speak up because they fear abandonment by their families if they start speaking up and demanding money for health care and attention

 

Eventually, whether male or female, you are responsible for your own health and life choices. You are the person who has to live with your body and make compromises in case you come down with something. I would encourage everyone to please never write off health problems and more importantly ask help when you need it. The change begins with you. 

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