Nature & Problems Of Gender Health in Kashmir

The functional or metabolic efficiency in a living being constitutes health. The World Health Organization (WHO) defined health in its broader sense in 1946 as “a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”

Gender health specifically refers to health issues pertaining to human female anatomy. These often relate to structures such as female genitalia and  or to conditions caused by hormones specific to, or most notable breasts in, females. Women’s health issues include menstruation, contraception, maternal health, child birth, menopauseand breast cancer. They can also include medical situations in which women face problems not directly related to their biology, for example gender-differentiated access to medical treatment. Women’s health is more broad than issues specific to human female anatomy only.

The social view of gender health is that gender is a social determinant of health. Nutrition status, environment, family support and care, health education, physical and mental fitness plays a dominant role in maintaining the sound gender health. The health in general and gender health in particular in Kashmir due to conflict has got disturbed a lot. Women in Kashmir generally do not physically encounter violence as much as men do, but their feelings of helplessness and subsequent impact resulting from the violence around them is taking a toll. The condition could not be improved much due to destroyed infrastructure and inadequate manpower.

Contemporary life style has made womans’ life much complex. It has made her financially independent but couldn’t do much to make her health stable. Often multi-tasking takes a toll on her health.  Many laws which include Maternity Laws, Reproductive laws, inheritance laws and others are made to ease her way but still she is a silent sufferer in one way or other.

•Social acceptance of late marriages is again a serious cause. Infertility is affecting young people at an alarming pace. Hormonal imbalance, late marriage, unhealthy lifestyle and stress are much known causes for it. Besides the sick reproductive health,problems the general health of Kashmiri women is fast deteriorating. Hypertension and orthopedic problems have become much common. Communication gap is a major factor contributing towards negative gender health.  It has been observed that females lag behind males in communicating their needs and problems There is absolute dearth of professional female manpower in the health sector. It is disheartening to see that in most Primary health centers there is no (female) gynecologist to cater to the issues of the patients. Basic and immediate facilities needed during deliveries are absent  which results  in referring the patients at critical hours to secondary/territory  health centers but often due to unequipped ambulances , dilapidated  roads  and traffic jams precious lives get lost. Baby incubators are not present even in  district hospitals. In Baramulla district hospital in the month of December 2012 two babies died in a single night. In  lone children’s’ hospital in Srinagar, (G.B Panth ) hundreds of babies died due to deficiency of infrastructure and manpower. It was also due to the improper and inadequate infrastructure and negligence of health administrators.

• People in general are unaware of the symptoms of various diseases .Awareness programs, workshops, Health Melas, seminars etc should be organised to generate awareness to eradicate the issues/ problems from grass root levels. Gender Bias should be removed.

•Health education, sex education ,and  pre-marital counseling should be provided to adolescents to have knowledge about their physiological , physical  and psychological issues.

•State should ensure adequate infrastructure and proper facilities at every health centre to make gender health care satisfactory It is observed in urban areas  that late marriages are become a common practice. However, in rural areas early marriages are performed but the female suffer from malnutrition and are often anemic. Gender health schemes and other plans should be designed keeping in view the geographical location and needs of the particular areas. Today NRHM exists as the backbone of health services but state health department  must come forward practically to ensure better health services by improving the infrastructure and adequate professional manpower.

•Saba Wani  is Research Investigator, ICMR Project, Department of Sociology, University of Kashmir. Feedback: [email protected] 

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