Back to Research Areas

Exploring Religious Discrimination Against Muslim Women at Health Facilities

During the past two decades, India has seen some of its worse communal conflicts with the rise in religious politics and the spaces for minorities have been shrinking steadily. Through this study, CEHAT sought to understand how this communalisation of both the State as well as civil society impacts women’s health and access to health care in Mumbai. The study looks at the experiences of both Muslim and non-Muslim women’s experience in accessing health care facility around their locality. The participants have been selected from the same area accessing the same health facilities. The socio-economic group has been controlled by choosing localities that have people of both religions living alongside, in similar conditions. Qualitative methodology using FGD’s and in-depth interviews has been used for data collection.

Preliminary analysis of the data shows that both Muslim as non-Muslim women encounter rude behaviour by health care providers. However, Muslim women face an additional communal bias which is manifested in the verbal abuse, often with sexual intent, that they face. Muslim women reported being called by derogatory terms such as ‘landiya baika’, were taunted for wearing the burkha, encountered stereotypes of being dirty, uneducated, backward, and having too many children. Muslim women reported feeling humiliated, tried to withdraw from health facilities, but never complained or confronted a health care provider, for fear of retaliation. The analysis of the data also brought forth the disadvantage that women face due to their gender, in the form of restriction of mobility, poor access to resources and lack of decision making power in the household. The findings suggest that gender, class and religion all play a role in Muslim women’s access to health services as well as the behaviour that is meted out to them there in.

Research Team: Zamrooda Khanday, Yavnika Tanwar, Padma Deosthali

Supported by: Ford Foundation