Gendered pattern of burn injuries in India: a neglected health issue

Authors : Bhate-Deosthali, Padma; Lingam, Lakshmi

Published Year: 2016

Reproductive Health Matters , 04 May 2016 , 24(47), pp. 96 - 103

There are an estimated 7 million burn injuries in India annually, of which 700,000 require hospital admission and 140,000 are fatal. 91,000 of these deaths are women; a figure higher than that for maternal mortality. Women of child bearing age are on average three times more likely than men to die of burn injuries. This paper reviews the existing literature on burn injuries in India and raises pertinent issues about prevalence, causes and gaps in recognising the gendered factors leading to a high number of women dying due to burns. The work of various women’s groups and health researchers with burns victims raises several questions about the categorisation of burn deaths as accident, suicide and homicide and the failure of the health system to recognise underlying violence. Despite compelling evidence, the health system has not recognised this as a priority. Considering the substantial cost of burns care, prevention is the key which requires health systems to recognise the linkages between burn injuries and domestic violence. Health systems need to integrate awareness programmes about domestic violence and train health professionals to identify signs and symptoms of violence. This would contribute to early identification of abuse so that survivors are able to access support services at an early stage. 

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