The BF and I got into an argument over this article, on the website Role Reboot.
The article basically examines death v/s gender from a historical persepective, and questions whether ‘dying for someone’ is an instinct to protect the ones you love or whether it’s a gendered ‘role’ played by men. I agree with the former , and pooh pooh at the latter suggestion- most mothers, of most species will risk their lives to save their offspring.
It also touches upon the concept of ‘male disposability’ – the notion that men’s lives have had less value than women’s- because men in times of war/sinking ships/natural disasters have had to ‘give up’ their chance at survival to save women (and children).
As the article ends up proving, this concept is utterly laughable at- simply because childbirth has killed more humans than wars ever have.
This bit about childbirth REALLY is close to my heart- so I decided to blog about it.
The proof that pregnancy and childbirth are inherently dangerous comes from the existence of a statistical indicator – the Maternal Mortality Ratio.
The MMR , simply put, is the death of a woman, while pregnant or within 42 days of birth, from a cause related to her pregnancy or labour. It’s usually expressed in terms of 100,000 live births – that is- number of mothers dying to the ratio of babies born.
(Also- and this fact is vitally important and glaringly obvious- there’s no such thing as a Paternal Mortality Ratio- nobody has ever died from becoming a father- simply because nobody dies from having sex!)
A little bit of digging yielded the fact that in 1946 , the estimate of MMR in India was over 2000! By 1990 , this had improved to 570- and is currently hovering under 300. That means 2-3 women die in India, when 1000 babies are born- die not from disease, or accidents, but from fulfilling their biological role in the human species.
The most telling data , comes from the UK- from an MMR of 5500 in 1850’s – a steep decline to around 8.
It stands to reason that it’s not the pregnancy/labour that actually kill women- but the complications that arise from them. The complications have occured since the beginning of time , and still occur now, in much the same way- the only difference is that we can do something about them.
It follows that better manangement of these complications means more women now survive what would otherwise have been an potentially dangerous 11 month period in their lives.
THAT is why, in every culture, there is a best of luck type ceremony prior to labour- kubsa/godh-bharai/baby shower- getting through a pregancy safely was (and still is) laudable.
In fact, if you think about it, nothing has improved the lot of womenkind as much as the modernisation of the field of obstetrics-simply because it has converted a universal, once nearly-fatal experience into a more benign and relatively less stressful one.
I mean that ‘relatively’ very very much. In India, the oh-so-cliched many Indias in one country- I’ve had the (mis)fortune to have worked in OBGYN in government centers only- where women are little more than breeding cattle in the eyes of their families.
I’m sorry to say, that in our country, people on the lower end of the social scale still have the kind of pregnancies and labour that are horrifyingly dangerous and unpleasant.These are sometimes fatal, sometimes just temporary setbacks to health, but always invisible amongst statistics.
I have personally yelled at a husband who refused to donate blood to his wife who was birthing his child (his mother yelled back at me) , I’ve delivered the baby of HIV positive women who screamed curses at absent husbands who had infected them,I’ve seen women IGNORED completely after they’ve birthed that precious male baby- suffice to say a female baby meant both mother and baby ignored.
In this melee, where a woman’s wellbeing and health is not even a priority for the husband/his family- there’s only so much even healthcare can do!
Of course, none of this applies to people like you and me with our mostly first world preoccupation with birth plans and water births and fancy hospitals- but if you were ever curious to see the true place of ‘average’ women in Indian society, just visit the OBGYN ward of any government hospital-I guarantee that the vast improvement in our MMR statistics will begin to look like a joke.