Exploring Religious Discrimination Toward Women in Public Health Facilities in Mumbai.

Authors : Khanday, Zamrooda

Published Year: 2017

Mumbai CEHAT Vol. 6, No. 6, 2017, pp. 148-159. doi: 10.11648/

The rise in communally driven identity politics in India during the past two decades has led to an increasingnumber of communal flare-ups in the country, State institutions have been found to be complicit in many cases, raisingquestions on the secular nature of the state. In the two major instances of communal violence in the past two decades - the1992-1993 Mumbai riots following the Babri Masjid demolition and the 2002 post-Godhra riots in Gujarat - the involvementof the police force has been explicitly noted by Judicial Enquiry Commissions as well as fact-finding reports. As with thepolice system, the health system too has displayed biases towards minority communities during communal riots. This departurefrom a neutral role in times of communal riots points to the extent to which communal elements have seeped into even thehealth machinery. In addition to this active bias and discrimination perpetrated during communal riots, we at CEHAT (Centrefor Enquiry into Health and Allied Themes) hypothesize that discriminatory treatment by health facilities operates in times of peace as well, and women belonging to the minority community face such discrimination on a regular basis. Studies show thatthe experience of discrimination has an impact on people's health and sense of well-being. Discrimination by health care providers at health facilities results not only in poor health outcomes for vulnerable groups but also reduces compliance with treatment and serves as a barrier to accessing medical care. India is signatory to several human rights treaties that explicitly forbid prejudice and bias in the provision of services. By virtue of being a signatory to these human rights treaties, the Indian State is committed to provide health services and end all forms of discrimination in the health facilities. It therefore becomes important to understand the overt and covert functioning of religious based discrimination in the area of health. Health professionals and health systems need to recognize that women face multiple forms of discrimination based on caste, class and community and therefore take additional steps to ensure unbiased delivery of services.

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