November 14, 2014

Feminist Friday: Deaths after sterilization remind us that women's health is still a foremost issue facing our global community

I had debated writing on this topic today, and I finally decided to.

I don't want to turn this into "look at this horrible thing that happened in India, what does it mean for us in America" because let's be real--how ethnocentric and arrogant and privileged would that be?

And yet, I do think that the situation that occurred halfway around the world this week has very real implications for global policies to protect women's health, and I think those implications are very real for every single nation, regardless of size or status.

Thirteen women are dead and dozens more sickened following botched sterilizations in India. These sterilizations all took place at a "sterilization camp" Saturday in the Bilaspar district. The doctor who oversaw the procedures has been arrested.

India has a long and troubled history with population control--forced sterilizations are still fresh in the memories of many citizens. In a nation where a significant portion of the population lives on less than $1.25 a day, a $10 payout for the surgery can be more than a week's salary.

The nation has a sterilization rate of 37% for women. By comparison, forced sterilizations of men with two children, as well as poor unmarried men, in the 1970s have left the nation with a suspicion of that procedure--only 1% of men in the nation undergo a vasectomy.

The nation still sets national goals for the sterilization program.

This is a shining example of why we need to focus on women's health as we continue to grow globally as a species. Defining women by their ability to bear children is a fraught proposition.

In this case, a government bounty is being used to encourage women to make a decision about their health--and it's created an absolute tragedy, one that's not over yet as many of the women remain in critical condition.

It's absolutely essential that we address women's health from a variety of directions. We need to empower and educate women to be able to best execute their own agency--we need to make it possible, in other words, for them to make their own best decisions.

We live in a time with an absolutely staggering number of contraception options. While I definitely want us to continue to push for better and safer and easier to access forms of birth control, you can't argue that there aren't plenty of reasonable options on the market. Options that are far less expensive than an exponentially increasing population, and far less likely to contribute to a tragedy like what we see here.

And yet, we see significant pushback against enabling women to best make these decisions.

Even here in the US, with our sex-obsessed culture, I'm absolutely shocked by the number of myths that surround women's bodies. Encountering them on a regular basis does nothing to dispel that "what the fuck" feeling. The lack of understanding is staggering.

But it's not a unique problem. It's one of the foremost problems facing women worldwide.

It's the reason why, last Saturday, 83 women walked into a clinic that would perform all of their surgeries in under six hours--and then send them home. And it's the reason why those women didn't have the knowledge to ask questions and make sure that they were receiving the best healthcare possible.

And it's the reason why thirteen of them are dead.

Knowledge is power. Let's demand it.

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