Reproductive Health

Her organisation, Mahila Jagat Lihaaz Samiti, also has a very successful reproductive health programme among poor urban women in the city of Indore. The slums in Indore are mostly populated by poor Dalit and Tribal families who have migrated to the city in search of work. The women residing in these slums suffer from patriarchal oppression and consequent reproductive health problems. Current thinking among feminists broadly defines the discipline of reproductive and sexual health as the social and clinical study of those problems and diseases that arise from the social asymmetries influencing human sexuality and reproduction. Specifically a reproductive health approach has been defined as that which enables women, including adolescents, everywhere to regulate their own fertility safely and effectively by conceiving when they desire, terminating unwanted pregnancies and carrying wanted pregnancies to term; to remain free of disease, disability or death associated with reproduction or sexuality and to bear and raise healthy children.  In reality, however, this ideal state of affairs does not prevail anywhere in the world and especially in India most women have to suffer from serious reproductive and sexual health problems. Feminist sociology has pinpointed the dominance of men in society as the prime reason for this and termed this phenomenon as patriarchy. Analysing all the main institutions of society like the family, marriage, kinship groups, media, religious hierarchies and the state, they have shown that all these play a role in maintaining the overall patriarchal structure of society. Over thousands of years this structure has become so well entrenched that to most people including women it seems quite natural instead of being the social construct that it is.

As a result traditionally women have had to work more, they have been denied the right to inheritance of property, they have had to assume total responsibility for house work and the care of children and the elderly and this work is not counted as of being of any economic value, they have had to go underfed and have been subjected to domestic and external violence of the worst kind. As a consequence of this secondary status women have to bear more babies to ensure that there are male progeny who will inherit the property and provide security in old age. Along with this there is social control over the sexuality of women so that men can be assured that the children born to their wives are truly theirs and so ensure the purity of their descent. Naturally all this affects the overall health of women and especially their reproductive and sexual health. Since there is a taboo on the discussion of these issues women have to suffer their troubles in silence and this leads to mental problems. Thus there is a deafening culture of silence surrounding women’s reproductive and sexual health problems . The biggest irony is that the menstrual cycle which is an integral part of the reproductive process is considered in the prevailing patriarchal system to be the cause of various  negative things and has been given a dirty connotation in India. This affects the ability of women to maintain personal hygiene and results in their being afflicted by various diseases of the reproductive tract.

Poor women both tribals and dalits living in slums in Indore have largely remained outside the purview of qualified medical help and have had to rely mostly on quacks.  Ther organisation has been implementing a participatory reproductive and sexual rights and health programme for poor women which focuses on the reproductive and sexual rights and health problems of  poor women and shows how their lack affects the poor women. Her programme to improve this situation  has impacted positively on the health, social and economic status of poor women.

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