FEMALE STERILIZATION DEATHS: SOCIAL MALAISE MADE PERMANENT BY TENTACLES OF A PATRIARCHAL SOCIETY

A Supreme Court ruling says there cannot be more than 30 female sterilization surgeries by a team of doctors in a day. The ruling also says a doctor cannot perform more than 10 such surgeries in a day. The convention also says such surgeries can only be performed in a government run facility.

The doctor in question, rewarded by the state health minister of Chhattisgarh for scoring the 50,000 mark of such surgeries and arrested now, performed 83 surgeries in five hours in a private hospital that was not in operation for months.

13 of these women died after developing complications. Many are still serious and in hospitals. And there are reports of hospitalization from some other camps as well.

And ‘such’ deaths make for regular news flow. What happened in Chhattisgarh is not a standalone incident. Yes, but the way it happened pulled the global attention. A Google survey will return with reports in almost every language.

Every human life lost owing to such misplaced and ill-conceived human priorities is an utter shame but we are living in an age of lost priorities.

Smaller number of deaths don’t figure at all beyond the local news coverage. Even this huge calamity was not potent enough to storm a national outrage and serious debate. No social media campaign was launched. No ‘such’ self-proclaimed advocates came forward. It did not trend beyond the realm of news making machinery.

And ‘such’ deaths just didn’t happen now. They have had a long history, dotting the timeline of the independent India.

Female sterilization surgery has been in regular use. Earlier, it was a state policy tool, with targets explicitly fixed. In fact, it was a state policy forcefully implemented during the Emergency years. Later, to make it look more progressive and inclusive, the process was made voluntary with more emphasis on educating the participants on family planning practices.

But most of it remained on papers, especially in small town, rural and hinterland India. Targets were fixed unofficially. Targets are still fixed unofficially. And ‘such’ surgeries have continued with their botched-up legacy.

Statistical reports say 12 women die every day in India owing to the botched sterilization surgeries or complications arising after the surgeries. Official figures say over 1400 people died in ‘such’ surgeries between 2003 and 2012, almost of them being women, and the statistical history dates deep back in time.

Now, India is a vast country when we map it in terms of its population. Around 1.25 billion people, distributed mostly across the small town or rural India, and most of the them just somehow surviving their living conditions. Enough is a word seldom arrived in their lives on their day-to-day requirements.

Hunger, healthcare, education and shelter are chronic issues still affecting the large swaths of Indian demographic landscape and the ‘subjects’ of most such female sterilization camps come from these population realms.

According to the reports, the governments offers monetary and other incentives to the ‘subjects’. Yes ‘subjects’ because the conceiver and developers of such plans don’t see them beyond this as revealed by the continuance of such target driven practices.

The reports say the monetary reward for women (tubectomy) is Rs. 1000 while the monetary compensation for men (vasectomy) is Rs. 2000. Why this gap? This is when tubectomy has greater complications than vasectomy. Some other reports say the incentive is Rs. 1400 adding that the National Population Policy discourages it. At the same time, the local health workers and doctors are also provided with incentives to bring more and more women to the sterilization surgery camps, like this Chhattisgarh doctor was awarded by the state government.

It is by now a deeply entrenched social malaise made permanent by the tentacles of a patriarchal society. Women are still considered secondary or inferior family members in social formations that make for most of the ‘subjects’ of ‘such’ female sterilization camps. The extreme position it has taken should become clear from the fact that we never discuss ‘male sterilization camps’ or ‘male sterilization deaths’.

And all for Rs. 1000 or Rs. 1400 or so! From an urban, metro middle-class lifestyle, that doesn’t make anything.

But for poor families dotting the Indian population across its geographical formations, it is a great sum that they rarely find in their possession in one go. And crushed by the conceited male egos and libidos, they choose or are coaxed to opt for or are forced to go for that ‘elusive stash of cash’, never thinking or questioning that their husbands doing so would be easier and probably more lucrative.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

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