Offer of Gold instead of Empowerment for Women

subhadra khaperde
Posted March 8, 2011 from India

A news report in a daily here in Indore recently said that the government had announced gold coins would be given by lottery to those women who underwent the sterilisation operation. The pressure on the administration to meet sterilisation targets set by the government has forced them to announce such sops. Very much like some sellers of shampoos who too lure customers by advertising that gold coins are hidden in a few of the bottles. This is the farcical culmination of a population policy that sidesteps the issue of patriarchy and puts the whole burden of population control on women. The family planning targets that are set have to be fulfilled by the lowest cadre of health workers who also are women. While the Auxiliary Nurse Midwives (ANM) are paid government servants, the Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHA) are more or less voluntary workers who are given only 150 rupees per female sterilisation and 200 rupees for male sterilisations. They are also given Rs 350 for encouraging pregnant women to deliver their babies in hospitals instead of at home. When a woman becomes pregnant the ASHA has to sniff her out like a sniffer dog and then make sure she takes all the vaccinations and other ante-natal care. They do not get paid for the post-natal care. The ASHA has to spend a lot of time in this and also in searching for candidates for strerilisation. Women doesn't agree easily to take ante-natal care or go to hospitals for delivery or for sterilisation. Only if there are complications do women want to take help from the ASHA or any other person or relatives. This is the tendency here as the women do not want to lose time as they are already over burdened with work. Only sometimes the ASHA succeeds in getting a woman to take help and the process starts and they have to go to the designated government hospital for all treatment. Government hospitals are far from their homes and going there costs time and money. Sometimes this distance means that when labour sets in the women cannot go to hospital because ambulance services are also not provided properly and they are too poor to hire vehicles. If the woman can not reach the nominated hospital and the birth takes place at home then the ASHA loses her payment of 350 rupees regardless of the time and money she might have spent on the woman. The Health department has lost all its welfare orientation and is using a business mind to lure women into opting for sterilisation. Women do not have any inclination to bear more babies but it is the patriarchal pressure to bear babies till enough boys are born that makes them go through this laborious process time and again. There is no guarantee for old age securty. The Indian government has made many rules and regulations for women's healh care but they are all on paper not on the ground. There are no concrete efforts to provide good health facilities for poor citizens . The Economic Survey by the Central Government puts the State of Madhya Pradesh in a poor light with Infant Mortility Rate females of 72 /1000 and for males of 68 /1000 in the state. Another interesting statistic is that only 2,385 males have been sterilised in the over one lakh family planning operations that have been done in the Indore division. This shows that men do not want to bear the responsibility of population control. A government surgeon said that males are prevented by their family because they are the bread earners. This is not true because many poor women are working and running their families and also going through the sterilisation operation. If the government really wants to take care of the poor women then male ASHA should also be inducted along with female ones to change the mindset of the men who dominate decision making in this regard. Society is male dominated and there is no open debate over health related issues. How can the women remove these social obstacles and motivate the men for sterilisation? Motivating the men in addition to the women is like giving water to the roots instead of the leaves. Women are not made only for giving birth to babies and for fulfilling the targets of sterilisation. Does anybody ask women what they want in their lives? No, instead the Government thinks they are like idiots who can be fooled with gold coins. It is seventeen years since the Programme of Action adopted at the International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo in 1994 stated in Principle 8 - "Everyone has the right to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health.States should take all appropriate measures to ensure, on a basis of equality of men and women, universal access to health-care services,including those related to reproductive health care, which includes family planning and sexual health.Reproductive health-care programmesshould provide the widest range of services without any form of coercion.All couples and individuals have the basic right to decide freely and responsibly the number and spacing of their children and to have the information, education and means to do so." Yet the government cannot think beyond bribing women to undergo sterilisation because it does not want to empower them to challenge patriarchy and take their own decisions. This international women's day we have to dedicate ourselves to freeing the millions of poor women from the clutches of a fatal patriarchy that stifles them.

Comments 2

Log in or register to post comments
ArtByMia
Mar 16, 2011
Mar 16, 2011

Thank you for this article and for bringing light to the horrible thing they are doing to control women and their right to reproduce. This reminds me of a situation that took place in Puerto Rico in the late 1930's and early 1940's called La Operacion / The Operation. Puerto Rico, under the United States since 1898 when it was ceded by Spain, has long been a laboratory for U.S. initiated social, economic and cultural policies. Beginning in the late thirties, privately funded foundations based in the United States, and later, the Puerto Rican government, with U.S. government funds, have promoted sterilization of women as a way of limiting population growth. In the forties, just when women were joining the work force in large numbers as industrialization opened up job opportunities, sterilizations were provided at minimal or no cost. While women suffered from lack of safe, legal abortion services, other methods of contraception, day care services, and health care services, they were offered sterilizations.

The results of deliberate policies, more concerned with curbing population than with meeting women's and children's needs, were high regret rates among the unprecedented nearly forty percent of women who by 1968 were sterilized. More than one third of women surveyed did not know sterilizations were permanent! Many approached sterilization decisions from mistaken notions that sterilization would improve their health, sexual life or marriage relationship. Many found depression, complications of surgery and abandonment by husbands as unexpected results.

The facts are that Puerto Rico's problems were not solved by efforts at population control. Puerto Rican women and men are now embattled to prevent further spread of the HIV epidemic (an incidence second only to Washington, DC), the epidemics of violence, substance abuse and unemployment. Today few illusions exist that population control policies will solve the island's environmental, economic or social problems. Women still struggle for family planning, safe abortions and health care, but resist pressures to end their reproductive lives prematurely.

This just goes to show that women from around the world really do have so much more in common regardless of their cultural or religious background. Keep sharing your voice and love for womens rights and advancment.

Namaste, Mia

subhadra khaperde
Apr 15, 2011
Apr 15, 2011

Dear Mia, I came across your comment only today as I was busy in the field. I am devastated with this story about Puerto Rico. Women have to bear the brunt of all kinds of idiotic ideas that are spawned by men. regards Subhadra