Every woman has the right to enjoy highest possible standards of mental and physical health. Health is a state of mental, physical and social well-being of a human being, and not just the absence of infirmity or a disease. For a woman, their health involves physical, social and emotional well-being, and our political, social, economic and biological factors play a major role in determining a woman’s health. Unfortunately, a majority of women around the world could rarely practice their right to health and wellbeing. A major hindrance towards the achievement of the highest possible standard of health for women is inequality in varied geographical regions, ethnic groups and social classes. Despite women health being emphasized as one of the most necessary conditions for women empowerment, a major section of this gender is generally neglected when it comes to optimal health and wellbeing.
Women’s health is a burning issue that has been highlighted by many feminists and even the World Health Organization and the United Nations. Reproductive health is one of the key highlight areas recently owing to an increasing rate of maternal mortality. According to a study by WHO, every day around 800 women die due to complications in pregnancy and child birth. This includes infections, excessive bleeding after childbirth, unsafe abortions and hypertensive disorders. Compared to high-income countries, the rate of maternal maternity is higher in Southern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. The study further revealed that a woman in a developing country is at the risk of dying from pregnancy-related causes during her lifetime 25 times higher than a woman living in a developed country. Poor hygiene and health conditions and lack of education and awareness are some major factors behind maternity mortality.
Women across the world have unequal and different access to use of basic health facilities, which include primary health resources to prevent and treat childhood diseases, anemia, malnutrition, malaria, communicable diseases, diarrheal diseases, tuberculosis and other tropical ailments. Staggering but true, women also face inequality for the protection, maintenance and promotion of their health. Health programs and policies, generally in developing countries, often tend to cope with gender stereotypes but fail to consider the socio-economic disparities, lack of autonomy and other differences that prevent women from exercising their right to health. Gender bias in the health system and inappropriate and inadequate medical services available to women are other contributing factors.
Discrimination against girls in a family, resulting from preference for a son, in access to healthcare facilities and nutrition severely endangers their health and wellbeing, both in the present and the future. Conditions like early marriage and pregnancy, and harmful practices like female genital mutilation pose remarkable health risks. Additionally, adolescent girls often do not get the necessary nutrition and health services that they should as they mature. Lack of sexual counseling and education further pose a serious threat. This goes a long way in affecting the overall health and wellbeing of a woman in the future. Despite women’s right to health, there are still many countries where more and more women are dying due to pregnancy-related causes, sexual diseases, mental disorders caused due to poverty, domestic violence and substance abuse, and malnutrition.