Sexual and Reproductive health services: Are they really Accessible?
The community has a chemist shop a few meters that the residents rely upon. The government dispensary near Jal Vihar, a few kilometers away is frequented by the residents for issues like common cold and basic healthcare needs.
For sexual and reproductive health, maternal care and neonatal care, an organization located a few meters from the settlement gives monthly campaigns for awareness and health checkup purposes. Accredited Social Health Activist (ASHA) workers also operate from the organization and provide information pertaining to sexual and reproductive health. The information provided is however only for married women.
“I have heard that they give information regarding reproductive health but I have never availed their services. They don’t come to the community; we have to go by ourselves and that too after finishing all household chores. We never get the time” says Anjali.
In other words, while facilities for information regarding sexual and reproductive health exist in their faulty implementation, information for unmarried females is completely missing.
Limited information regarding sexual and reproductive health is a huge barrier that women face in the Indian society. The prevalent taboo and stigma associated with sexuality hinder women from making informed decisions and choices about their own bodies.
Gudiya, 22, is the mother of a one-year-old daughter. According to her, information regarding reproductive health is very important because childbirth after marriage is a social obligation but nobody gives detailed information and choices around family planning (different kinds of contraceptives).
“My sister in law has worked with an organization that provides information regarding sexual and reproductive health. She has helped me a lot because I come from a small village in Bihar where there is no information regarding female health,” says Gudiya.
Speaking about maternal health and family planning, Sunita, 25, says that private clinics are better than government clinics/hospital . The doctors are willing to listen to your inquiries and there no long queues for waiting.
Regarding maternal delivery, the quality of services provided by government hospitals is extremely poor. According to Gudiya who gave birth in Safdarjung Hospital, one of the largest government hospitals in the capital, the state of the maternity ward lies in neglect.
“The nurses there are nefarious for being very cruel. I remember I saw a woman scream while during her delivery and the nurse hit her on the inner thighs and the nether region. I was so horrified I bit my own screams because I was so scared that they’ll hit me” says Gudiya.
Lack of information, myths surrounding female bodies and reproduction are huge factors behind why women are complicit to their experiences.
Sunita says that “nobody really tells you how bodies function during reproduction. Basic information like menstrual health is not even accurately provided to adolescents and young women. Mothers also have limited information to provide. Lack of conversation regarding menstruation instills fear into the minds of young people and that fear continues throughout our lives. The moment we know, women will be empowered to make sure that such ghastly practices of misbehavior during delivery do not happen and be experienced by anyone.”
The idea that reproduction is a female exclusive experience is something that needs to be changed.
“Men should also be included in the entire process. Information should be shared equally among men and female so that when help is needed anyone can help with accurate information.”