- Sputnik India, 1920, 11.12.2022
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India's Most Backward State Needs Dignified Healthcare for Women

© Photo : Special ArrangementsTeenagers, along with their mom supporting the campaign
Teenagers, along with their mom supporting the campaign  - Sputnik India, 1920, 19.12.2022
More than 50% of Indian women, mainly those living in rural areas, said to be lacking awareness and dignified help on health issues, like PCOS, breast cancer, or endometriosis.
The Indian government and women rights activists are working hard to spread awareness about sanitary products, sex education, menstrual health, and other sensitive issues.
Sadly enough, a lot of women still feel uncomfortable to talk about these issues — even in private.
In an average rural family, discussing topics related to menstrual health remains a social taboo. The Indian Women's Health Report 2021, however, revealed that over 50% of women do want to talk about women health issues and avoid a stigma that might very likely follow.
This problem is not limited to women only: a large number of patients have had an awkward experience when visiting hospital to see a gynecologist.

'Weird' Looks & Improper Diagnoses

24-four-year-old Sandhya Kumari from the Madhubani district of Bihar state shared her experience with Sputnik.
Three years ago, when Kumari had an appointment with a gynecologist due to missing three consecutive periods, the nurse and the doctor both asked her why her parents did not come accompany her.

"After I told the doctor that I missed my periods and [he] checked that I was not pregnant, they gave me a weird look and did not diagnose me properly. I never came back to [this] hospital," Kumari shared.

In 2021, when she came to another hospital — this time in Delhi —they did proper check-up on her to reveal she actually suffered from Polycystic ovary syndrome, or PCOS.
Kumari is one of the thousands of cases who experience harassment while accessing medical care.
In another case, Rama Devi, now 37, revealed that while she was pregnant with her daughter, she experienced extremely rude behavior from hospital workers because she belongs to the backward class.
"In the labor room, the nurse asked me to keep my mouth shut and not cry, and I must have enjoyed sex, hence I should not make noise. Even after delivery, they asked me to shift to a bed on which a person died, 10 minutes ago," Devi told Sputnik.
"The person died in front of us. How could I shift my newborn baby to that bed? When my family members complained, they said should we buy a new bed for you," Devi added.

Passing the Safety Pins

A lot of women in Bihar are finally getting dignified healthcare now. They are raising these issues and sharing their stories of gender-based discrimination when accessing medical care.
© Photo : Special ArrangementsPass The Pin
Pass The Pin  - Sputnik India, 1920, 20.12.2022
Pass The Pin
As such, a group of women has launched a campaign named 'Khud se Pucho' (ask yourself) in Bihar's capital city of Patna. They are collectively raising awareness and demanding 'safe spaces' be introduced for female citizens where they can seek treatment without judgment.
Those women are passing the safety pins among other women, playing a crucial role in women daily affairs yet they are being silenced.

"The safety pin is accessible to all women. It is found in their purses, clothes, and sometimes even in the jewellery they're wearing. It is something that women are connected to in their everyday lives, accessing safe and quality healthcare should be the basic right of women, as is having a safety pin with you," Gurpriya, one of the women participating with the campaign, told Sputnik.

According to Gurpriya, women, especially in small towns and rural parts of India, have "become ignorant and dismissive of their situation", while their families, too, remain insensitive towards the issues related to menstruation, breast illnesss and other health issues.
So far, thousands of women have joined the campaign, being able to share their personal stories of molestation and inappropriate physical behavior to crude, irrelevant questions they ecnoucnter at hospitals and clinics.
© Photo : Special ArrangementsRural women In Parts of Bihar are pledging to support the campaign
Rural women In Parts of Bihar are pledging to support the campaign  - Sputnik India, 1920, 20.12.2022
Rural women In Parts of Bihar are pledging to support the campaign
As the campaign grows, more stories of prejudice and sexism are tumbling out of a closely hidden closet.
"These women have an internal fear of being judged if they talk about their healthcare issues out in the open. So, it never becomes a norm. The women generally feel a lack of supportive and conducive space where they can be themselves and speak their mind," Gurpriya explained.
So far, the campaign has garnered organic traffic, and it is now seeing doctors and Bollywood celebrities joining them or speaking for it.
© Photo : Special ArrangementsGurpriya Singh (First Row in Blue), along with her group
Gurpriya Singh (First Row in Blue), along with her group  - Sputnik India, 1920, 20.12.2022
Gurpriya Singh (First Row in Blue), along with her group

Social Taboo Still Persists, Even in Big Cities

According to the government data, less than 30% women in India have been ever screened for cervical cancer.
Furthermore, as many as 483.5 million women aged 15 years and older are at risk of developing cervical cancer, while one in 22 women in urban India and one in 60 women in rural India are at a risk of developing breast cancer during lifetime, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) says.
Dr. Surbhi Singh, a renowned gynecologist in Delhi, warns that not just in rural India, but even big cities, like Delhi, discussing common health issues like PCOS, breast cancer, and endometriosis are still considered taboo.
"Even after awareness of pap smears, breast, and cervical cancer screening - women ignore to get them a test. This is the high time when it is needed that we should speak up for women-related healthcare," Singh added.