15 February 2013

India: Pregnant Women Facing Abuse

A fantastic account from reporter Allyn Gaestel and photographer Allison Shelley on the abuse faced by pregnant women in India. They share the story in the Atlantic of a young woman named Devi who struck by her husband while undergoing a cesarean section. Additionally, she worked long and hard days right up to going into labor. Her experiences illustrates one of the problems faced by attempts to reduce maternal mortality in India.

From The Atlantic:
Sugia Devi was spread on the operating table like a martyr, arms wide. But Devi wasn't dead; she was active and flailing in pain. Throughout her caesarean section she responded to each incision, each stitch, jerking her face away and moaning ghoulishly. 
The doctors working on her abdomen, distracted by pulling out the baby and answering a phone call, ignored her cries. But the junior doctor standing next to her face, heard. He held down the thin gauze strip covering her eyes, pressing so strongly he indented the mounds of her cheeks. The cover was ineffective; beneath the thin cloth her eyes were visible, darting in fear. 

The doctor pumped Devi full of pain medications during the surgery, and he said that after that she was moaning out of fear. Devi, however, blatantly disagreed: "I remember that I was shouting out of pain." 
When she moaned Kumar shook her, then jerked her, and finally hit her, over and over during the surgery. His lip snarled and he looked angry at the disturbance. There was no concept of her cries representing a physical need or something wrong with her pain control. They were only annoying. Devi, abdomen still open, half anesthetized, uterus exposed, had no choice but to weather the health worker's blows.
Devi's physical abuse during her delivery is just one case of the violence many Indian women suffer during their reproductive lives. In the aftermath of the high-profile gang rape of a 23-year-old medical student, discussions have raged in India about the regularity of violence against women. As has been widely noted, the causes of the violence run deep. But they also are broad.
And a clip of Devi's opperation while her husband rebukes her: