Thursday, September 29, 2011


Healthcare discrimination against females has multiple negative ramifications

Discrimination is one word that is used indiscriminately in our society. But amidst all kinds of discrimination (on the basis of income, caste, religion, colour) the one that is most inhumane is the gender discrimination within children. Female foeticide has almost become a cliché. The ones who are immensely fortunate to escape the pre-mature death are then subjected to a lifetime of discrimination. What is worse, healthcare discrimination not only reminds a woman every moment of her being unwanted, inferior and less relevant socially but gradually develops into other multiple and complex medical related problems.

It is no secret today that illegal abortion of girl child has become so common affair that it goes completely unnoticed, without making any ripples in the mainstream media. In last three decades, more than 12 million girls are said to have been aborted. This is also evident from the falling sex ratio in our country. This was 927 girls per 1000 boys a decade back, which has fallen to an alarming 914 girls to 1000 boys as per the latest census. Surprisingly, this ratio was 945 girls per 1000 boys in the country. What is more surprising is that 5 out of 35 states and Union Territories of India including Bihar, Jammu & Kashmir, Gujarat Daman & Diu, Dadra & Nagar Haveli and Lakshadweep are having negative growth in sex ratio.

A case in point with respect to blatant child discrimination is the treatment of Congenital Heart Disease (CHD). A recent survey showed that only 22 per cent of parents go ahead with medical treatment if CHD is diagnosed in their girl child. More than 1,80,000 children are born with this disease every year in the country, but parents only pay heed to treatment if the same is diagnosed in a male child. A research by All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi in collaboration with the British Medical Journal Heart revealed that only 44 per cent of female children had undergone heart surgery compared to 70 per cent male children! Given the fact that a male child is often considered as the bread earner in our society, parents are more concerned about the health of their male child and not the girls. Moreover, since CHD treatment is an expensive affair, very few parents go ahead with it in case of female children. In a few cases it has also been learnt that parents become sceptical about girl child's future post surgery, as the surgery leaves lifelong post-operation scars on the body.

In fact, medical discrimination is visible in case of minor health problems too. A survey in Punjab revealed that parents are more proactive towards the medical checkups for males than for females. On an average, a family spends 2.3 times more on their boys’ medical care than on girls'. For diseases like Chronic Glomerulonephritis is (related to Kidney disorder), only 37 per cent of all females sufferingfrom this disease were being treated while it diminishes to 24 per cent in case of Diabetic Nephropathy and further drops down to 14 per cent in Chronic intestinal nephritis. Even for a curable and widespread disease like tuberculosis (TB), the death rate among women is 27-41 per cent higher compared to men of the same age.

A 2002 report on expenditure on medical treatment for women showed that in the mid-1990s, the inequalities between the sexes had increased in terms of untreated sickness and hospitalisation. Another research by CEHAT conducted in Mumbai, released half a decade back, brought forth a similar picture. As per the survey reports, the average per capita expenditure on female healthcare was Rs 78.59 per illness incidence for women and girls compared to Rs 148.56 in case of males. More than 32 per cent of illness cases in females go untreated and this is more as the access to ‘female doctors’ is far too less. Most of the times, families avoid sending their female members to male doctors for checkups and treatment, which acts as a huge impediment in female medical care. A 2009 research on access to life insurance for women make the entire picture more vivid. Only 30 per cent of all customers of LIC – the biggest insurance company of India – are women, while it drops to 24 per cent in case of private insurance companies.

The discrimination is conventionally due to social and economical cost attached to treatment. As I said earlier, men are considered to be bread winners while females a burden. Thus the motivation for treating females, across all social strata, is quite low. The only way to address this issue is compulsory insurance for females. I would like to extend the thought and bring in low cost and customised insurance policies for females in particular. Since the biological framing of females makes them more susceptible to diseases, it is important to frame a different and customised insurance policy for them that covers and stresses on female related diseases. And the health ministry should be the one to create a framework for the same, as it's women who have been robbed of their basic rights for long!



  1. the problem in itself is a complex one there fore this cannot have a simplistic solution .the most important and pertinent issue is the attitude of the society at large and the women class in specific if the would-be mother is willing to abort a child without even givin a thought that even she is female then there is something wrong with these women.
    secondly as a society we have always been hypocrites,we have always historically discriminated against women n therefore we have also accepted the killing of girl child.
    Also the govt that have been in power have done precious little to stop the gender check that is done without even batting an eyelid by the sonography centers which by the way are run by so called highly educated doctors who r more than willing to kill a child for earnin that extra buck therefore there has to be a very radical solution to this issue .

  2. I am a mother who has filed a complaint against my husband for forcing me to go in for sex determination and female feticide (details on every authority from government /police/judiciary has litteraly done everything possible to force me to withdraw my complaint and settle down with my husband.
    they treat me as a criminal for dragging my husband to court for something so natural as desire for a son.
    none of the so called N.G.O/ministers who speak big in front of media have helped me.
    Other than a few friends, collegues, and of course my family, nobody stood by me.
    Any mother who wants to walk out of her matrimonial home in order to save her daughters wont get support from our society/government/judiciary , than how will you end female feticide.