The Other Half
The Hindu Sunday Magazine (December 3, 2006)
LAST month, a depressing story in a newspaper related how in Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh, where Japanese Encephalitis is recurrent, the wards in the district hospital were full of boys. Was it possible that no girls had contracted the disease? The answer, sadly, is rather obvious. When faced with a choice of loss of several days of paid labour, poor families chose to treat only their sons leaving their daughters to either succumb to the disease or be permanently impaired as a result of contracting it.
This is only one of the many harsh realities of women's health in this country that begins at birth, goes on through girlhood to adolescence and adulthood — an unchanging story of callous neglect. Every year, the statistics of infant mortality or maternal mortality only tell part of the story. For, the real burden of a shamefully inadequate public health care system in this country, particularly in the poorer and more deprived regions, has to be borne by women. It is like living under low-intensity conflict; you can never be sure from which direction you will be attacked and whether you will live to see another day.
But sometimes out of this gloomy scenario you catch glimpses of light, of something positive that is being done. In the midst of a serious discussion on the repercussions of conflict on women's health, at a National Dialogue on Women, Health and Development held recently in Mumbai, I chanced upon that glimmer of hope.
(For the rest of the article, click on the link)