DHAKA, Jan 24, 2022 (BSS), Health care of Dalit women still remains neglected: Luxmi Rani, a Dalit woman, gave birth to her first child after two years of marriage. Born and raised in a “cleaners’ colony” here, the lady didn’t have any extra excitement of being a mother.
In her view, this is not a serious thing about giving birth to a child like some other women in the world. Even after getting pregnant for the first time, her husband never took her to any health centre for a medical checkup. Her husband did not have the courage to take Luxmi to the nearest health centre even.
The hospital is a “protected area” for them but her husband called a local Daiye (midwife)at home to look after her. Unfortunately, Luxmi gave birth to a stillborn baby after a three-day effort by her midwife.
But this is not the end of Luxmi’s sufferings. A few days later she got a fistula as her the urineand stool-passing paths become one. Even in this situation, her husband did not take her to the physician.
On the contrary, he got Luxmi out of the house and became trouble-free. This is not an incident of any rural areas in Bangladesh but it happened to Luxmi’s Wari residence in Dhaka city. Being an ill-fated woman of the Dalit community, she had to face huge suffering.
[ Health care of Dalit women still remains neglected ]
‘Dalit’ literally means deprived. It is academically applied to all low castes marginalised and discriminated. Dalit Community, according to experts, is not a caste or a group of castes, but a group of population marginalised to the extreme by partly religious sanctions and partly by social and economic deprivations. They are socially and economically deprived and forced to work
under abominable conditions at the lowest return of their labour.
There are about 7 million Dalits of at least 110 ethnic groups across the country who work in various professions. There are two types of Dalit ethnic groups in Bangladesh: Bangali Dalit and Non-Bangali Dalit. Of them, the untouchable sections of Bengali speaking people are called Bengali
Dalit or Bangalee Dalit.
They (workwise) include Bede (Gypsy), Charmokar (Cobbler), Malakar (Garland maker), Kumar (Potter), Kai Putro, Kolu, Kol, Kahar, Khourokar, Nikari or trader, Bauli, Bhagobania, Manata, Malo (Fishermen), Maual (Honey collector), Bawali (Honey and firewood collector), Mahato, Rajo Das, Rajbongshi, Karmakar, Roy, Shobdokar, Shobor, Sannasi, Hazra etc. These communities are divided into various groups. Although Islam does not allow discrimination many of them have remained underprivileged.
The experts said such incidents often occur in the Dalit community women. Their only relief is to give birth to a living baby. In that community, it is very less important of the health of pregnant mothers rather than the living newborn only.
Talking to BSS, Prof Saima Ahmed of Dhaka University’s International Relations (IR) Department, who works on Dalit issues, said an extreme poverty is one of the major obstacles to access to formal medical care for Dalits. Besides, social isolation and professional shame are also key factors against this situation. She said Dalits are the most backward in livelihood, education, health, nutrition, sanitation and land. The country’s half of the Dalit population is women, being oppressed as well as neglected in society.
The researcher added that lack of proper awareness about reproductive health, neonatal health and bad impact of child marriage which is the highest rate in Dalits and proper care issues, they remained always underprivileged and even oppressed in the mainstream society as well as in their own society, she observed.
Prof Mesbah Kamal of Dhaka University’s History Department has been working for a long time to realize the rights of Dalits community, said Dalit women could not go to the health centre as they were considered as low caste and untouchable in the eyes of the society. Cent per cent of the deliveries of Dalits are being done by incompetent midwives at home.
Echoing with the researchers’ remark about the overall condition in the society, President of Dalit Women’s Forum Moni Rani Das said awareness of Dalit women about education and health is increasing day by day.
“Now many Dalit girls are going to school and college overcoming the barriers to society.Women are learning about different aspects of health. It’s positive. There are initiatives on behalf of the government as well,” she added.
Rani Das sought the government’s support for the development and empowerment of Dalit women, giving priority to Dalit women in private services, taking specific steps for socio-economic development, creating a conducive environment for education, ensuring jobs for educated unemployed, raising awareness on domestic and women abuse, and prevention of child marriage.
The Department of Social Services is implementing programs in 21 of the most Dalit-populated districts to improve the overall living standards of the Dalit community, including education and health.
The government has also taken the initiative to enact a law called the ‘Abolition of Inequality Act’ to establish the rights of Dalits who are victims of discrimination in various fields.
If these decisions are properly implemented, the various rights of Dalit women will be fully materialized, Rani hoped.