Consent, Sex & Abortion: Our Top Women’s Health Stories of 2019

Consent, Sex & Abortion: Our Top Women’s Health Stories of 2019

7 min read
FIT attempted to reach out to women, listen to their stories, and report on topics that would directly or indirectly their freedom, safety, and health.

It’s 2020, but we’re still far away from attaining gender equality in almost all spheres —and healthcare is no exception. The previous year saw debates, discussions and even laws all over the world on issues affecting a woman’s agency to make decisions for her own body — many of them taking us back in time with their controversial bases.

In all the madness, FIT attempted to reach out to women, listen to their stories, and report on topics that would directly or indirectly their freedom, safety, and health. From abortion to sexuality, reproductive rights and biases in medical research, here are our top ‘Her Health’ stories from 2019.

Hey Working Woman! Want a Baby or Not, This Info May Surprise You

You are immersed into your work, there is a lot you still want to do, yet somewhere at the back of your mind there is this nagging sound whispering *Babies*. To expunge the thought, all you need to do is watch a working mother juggle kids - not a cake walk. With the bar set high for what it means to be a mother and a female professional, women expect themselves to be perfect at both. It is no wonder that often the thought of having babies seems more like a pressure that clashes with professional aspirations. I’ve been there. And these women I met are going through it now.

Medical advances have of course caught up with this dilemma and offer ‘solutions’ for having your babies when you want to. But while ‘natural’ conception is always preferable, these alternatives also co-exist.

Watch here.

Females Are ‘Too Complicated’: Gender Biases Warp Medical Research

Consent, Sex & Abortion: Our Top Women’s Health Stories of 2019
Historically, the woman and her brain was seen as complicated and difficult to work with, and this persistent myth is still creating problems for women’s health.

‘Men are simple and women are hormonal.’

This tired, sexist and scientifically unsound notion has stubbornly clung on to us, and scientists, despite their halo of objectivity, are not immune to gender biases either.

From reports of skewed testing methods that favour male animal subjects to discounting women from clinical trials in HIV drugs, women are still getting the short end of the stick in medical research and effectively, treatment.

On 31 May, The Guardian reported that drug trials traditionally carried on male mice has tilted the results in favour of males, both human and mice.

What’s behind this gender bias? Read the full story here.

Painful & Dreadful: When Sex is Everything It Isn’t Supposed to Be

Consent, Sex & Abortion: Our Top Women’s Health Stories of 2019
A woman with vaginismus experiences sudden contraction in her vaginal muscles when an attempt is made to penetrate it.

“When I was in my late teens, I wanted to try tampons, but the thought itself made me clench.” — Revati

“I realized, masturbation wasn't possible for me and it hurt terribly. At that moment, I had just graduated from high school and didn't feel comfortable enough to talk about this difficulty or impossibility with anyone - be it a family member or a doctor.” — Divya Dureja

Revati and Divya have never been able to have sex in the traditional sense. They were diagnosed with vaginismus, making any penetration of the vagina unbearably painful.

They are only two among many other women — each with a different story to share about personal discoveries, struggles and most importantly — acceptance.

Read their stories here.

The Worrying Disappearance of Medical Abortion Drugs in India

Consent, Sex & Abortion: Our Top Women’s Health Stories of 2019
More than 80% of all abortions in India are performed using drugs. What happens when this option is taken away?

India legalized abortions in 1971 with the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act — becoming one of the first few countries to give women the option to abort even in situations that are not life-threatening.

Undoubtedly, the law is among the more progressive abortion laws that exist in the world. Advances in medicine and technology have opened doors to safer and more convenient options, such as medical abortion drugs (mifepristone and misoprostol) that can be used within ten weeks of pregnancy.

But the struggle for access to safe abortion in India is far from over — with expected but often unprecedented obstacles in the form of social and cultural backlash, overregulation, unawareness and legal loose ends.

The latest of these is rather scary, with the potential of taking us back almost a decade in the progress we’ve made in making abortions accessible, convenient and simpler. Take a closer look at our infographic here.

“Do You Notice My Gorgeous Smile or My Wheelchair First?”

Consent, Sex & Abortion: Our Top Women’s Health Stories of 2019
“People call me a dumb flirt as I don’t notice the signs, but they don’t see how I flirt as flirting is ableist.”

“Shall I tell you something funny? When I started dating, people said I salute your boyfriend! They called him brave to date someone like me!”

Politics student and paraplegic Pratishtha Deveshwar’s question was laced with playfulness but bellied a reality I had not considered. One of many unlearnings that occurred for me on a rainy Delhi evening at Disability Rights NGO, Rising Flame’s conference.

Then came a searing question by Kavya Mukhija, a young woman with disabilities, who navigates life in a wheelchair.

“What does consent mean to a woman with disabilities who needs to be touched to help with access - from help with changing, to handling wheelchairs?” Read the full story here.

My Pain Is Real: Stories of Neglect & Biases Towards Women’s Pain

Consent, Sex & Abortion: Our Top Women’s Health Stories of 2019
Women are constantly told that their pain is all ‘in their heads’. Why are their symptoms ignored?

Pain is universal.

Yet, gender biases have crept into medical research time and again, severely impacting the way women's agonies are received, interpreted and eventually treated.

Consider these findings from across the world: Women in emergency departments who reported having acute pain were less likely to be prescribed opioid painkillers than men. If prescribed, they wait longer to receive them. Women were also seven times more likely to be misdiagnosed and discharged in the middle of having a heart attack.

Research on the subject is abundant. It is rooted in real incidents, experiences and struggles of women who have spent months — and even years — trying to convince everybody around that they are not 'faking it'. For many, this has risked them their lives.

Listen to them here.

20 Things Women Want in 2020

It’s the beginning of a new decade. As dive into 2020, FIT asks: can this be the year women get equal healthcare rights?

From better maternal healthcare to non-judgemental doctors, here’s what women want in 2020! Watch here.

Safe Abortion Day: I’m Not Guilty Anymore & More Tales of Abortion

Consent, Sex & Abortion: Our Top Women’s Health Stories of 2019
From shame to relief to fear, #MyAbortionStories is a safe space for women to share stories of their abortions.

Kums was 29 when she had an abortion. Kavita* (name changed) was 31. “Aren’t I supposed to want kids? I like children. I did want children. But I didn’t want to be a mother. Was I allowed to admit that? Probably not.”

Another woman, choosing to remain anonymous, said she had an abortion in her last year of college because she was not ready yet. Another said she was raped in her marriage and chose to abort.

“I had an abortion but nowhere to talk about it,” was the common refrain.

Abortion is a prickly topic, with many opinions and moral judgments clouding women’s actual, real-life experiences. Read some of these stories here.

“Sometimes Motherhood is Trauma” And Other Lactating Woes

Consent, Sex & Abortion: Our Top Women’s Health Stories of 2019
Mothers who can’t lactate enough are told they’re not trying hard enough or they are making excuses or that they just don’t care.

“Sometimes, motherhood is a time of trauma,” says Dr Anjali, counsellor and parenting expert

Speaking out about the tough parts of being a woman, and especially a mother is dangerous territory.

We love our moms, we’ve deified them to the point of no return, they’re selfless goddesses and so if there’s a crack – if they somehow fumble and don’t go accordingly to the script – they're plunged down from their pedestal faster than you can spell M-O-M.

Accusations of ‘selfishness’ or remarks like “Do you not love your baby?” bite at you viciously if you’re a new mom who chooses to speak up about the not so pleasant side of motherhood.

Catch the full story here.

Epidural Injections: Making Childbirth Easier... Or Not?

Consent, Sex & Abortion: Our Top Women’s Health Stories of 2019
With so much information about epidural injections, what should you believe?

Birthing a child is a process that demands a lot from a woman’s mind and body. Labour can be as hard, painful and unbearably long as it can be beautiful and spontaneous. This spontaneity requires decisions to be made amidst all the chaos and pain — and these judgements must not be marred by any misinformation that floats around.

The need of epidural injections for pain relief is met with raised eyebrows and speculations. But is there any weight in these doubts?

Find out here.

(This story was auto-published from a syndicated feed. No part of the story has been edited by The Quint.)

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