Woes of the Indian woman

THE FINDINGS of the National Family Health Survey-III reveal that, in rural areas, 52.5 per cent of girls aged between 20-24 get married before they turn 18. The corresponding figure for urban India is 28.1 per cent. Is that shocking? Yes, it is, for someone who has lived...

  • Follow us on
  • google-news
  • whatsapp
  • telegram

Published: Wed 28 Feb 2007, 11:23 PM

Last updated: Sat 4 Apr 2015, 8:42 PM

woesin a posh locality, received the best of education, and would not think of marriage before the age of 25 or even more. But, check with Sunitabai, 'highly qualified' since she is that rare maid who has studied up to ninth standard. Sunita works in a few Pashan flats, speaks good Marathi and equally fluent Hindi, and knows that 'there are laws that don't allow a girl to be married before she turns 18.'

Does she agree with the law? Standing next to another maid who is clearly surprised by the conversation's unusual nature, Sunita affirms, 'The law is great. Why should you get a girl married off so early?'

One probes further. Does it make 'perfect sense' to her relatives, or the villagers of her native place?

Sounding disappointed, she murmurs, 'Who bothers about such things in villages? When a girl turns 14-15, she is married off. That is the way it has been happening for years, and that is how it is even today.'

At first glance, a tiny part of the world with good schools and colleges, malls and multiplexes seems to symbolise development. The person who collects garbage; that newspaper guy who leaves a daily at your doorstep; the milkman, the grocery boy: they are the inhabitants of a much larger space where a girl's marriage before the age of 18 happens because it does.

If at all such individuals are surprised by the survey's findings, that would be since half the women of today's India are getting married after 18!

Till today, why is it that countless girls are married off so early?

Sunita Gupta Pande, who teaches sociology at Fergusson College, says, 'Firstly, there are historical reasons. For example, during the days of the agricultural economy, productivity and fertility were cherished. That explains the custom of early marriage for girls in India. Then, the developmental model we are experiencing is anti-women.

There is an increase in violence against women, and that is why the idea is to get rid of that responsibility. Then, globalisation has been accompanied by the growth in right-wing ideology. The latter is having a negative impact on the status of women, which is not helping matters either' That the average woman is not living in the best of times becomes obvious the moment one steps out of the house, and chats with the person who separates ola and sukka kachra. He or she will talk about a life which is so different from yours, and where an 18-year-old is seen as an illiterate married mother. Hoping for a change is a noble thought; but, first of all, that person who collects kachra needs to understand what that change actually means.

Rise in Caesarean births may be linked to age and weight

ALMOST A quarter of babies are delivered by Caesarean section because mothers are becoming older and fatter.

Statistics show age and obesity have pushed the number of Caesareans in Health Service hospitals upwards dramatically in the last ten years. In 1995, one in six babies was born this way. But by 2005, the figure was 23.1 per cent.

The increase is partly because older mothers are more likely to need surgery than younger women, a report from the Office of Health Economics said yesterday. About 13.4 per cent of babies born to women under 20 were delivered by Caesarean. But for mothers who were older than 40, the figure rose to 33.4 per cent.

However, Emma Hawe, head of statistics at the independent research body, said ageing mothers were not the only reason. 'In countries such as Finland and the Netherlands there has been a shift towards older mothers, but Caesarean rates remain relatively low there, so the age profile of mothers does not account for increasing numbers.'

She suggested that there may be a 'causal relationship between the mother being overweight or obese and having a Caesarean section delivery'.

Statistics show obese women with a body mass index of more than 45 had surgery in 50 per cent of cases. The rise is not down to women choosing surgery, she added. This accounted for as little as 7 per cent, as the number of planned deliveries remained constant. 'It is the emergency Caesarean rates that are continuing to rise.'

Doctors' fear of litigation when natural births go wrong, could also be contributing to the rise. Mrs Hawe said: 'Almost a fifth of the hospital-based obstetric respondents in a recent large scale survey admitted that they now perform more Caesareans because they fear possible litigation.'

The increase may also be down to the escalating number of women having multiple births after IVF, she added.

But Professor James Walker of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists said: 'I don't think that anyone is carrying out sections just because they are worried about being sued. It certainly influences the decision but it is also the case that doctors are carrying out more sections because the procedure is safer.'

The World Health Organisation has said 'there is no justification for any region to have a higher caesarean rate than 10 to 15 per cent'. Britain's rate is higher than much of Europe, but lower than Germany, Italy and Spain — and the U.S.

Experts say Caesareans can increase a baby's chance of breathing difficulties and mothers will find it harder to bond with the child while recovering.

More news from