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Poverty, superstition take their toll on Sangola women’s health

Taboo around menstruation has madehysterectomies acceptable in Sangola. —Photo: Roli Srivastava

Taboo around menstruation has madehysterectomies acceptable in Sangola. —Photo: Roli Srivastava  

Kushala Dadaso Sangolkar can split her 34 years of life in two halves — the first in which toiled at a sugarcane factory or on a farm, bore children and took care of the household work. The second half of her life began 11 years ago, when she was 23 and underwent a hysterectomy. Life, as she had known it, changed since then. “I have to work harder, longer now to repay the loan I took for the operation. But my body is giving way. My joints and back ache all the time,” she says.

Karande vasti, where Kushala lives, is located in the Sangola taluka of Solapur district. It is a small hamlet with barely 25 homes. But in each family a woman or two has undergone hysterectomy.

Widespread practice

The widespread practice in a small taluka such as Sangola could well be anecdotal evidence of what is clearly a national concern.

sWhat makes it different here, however, is that doctors have been prescribing hysterectomies for making it almost a rite of passage where a woman undergoes the procedure once she is through with her reproductive “duty” of giving birth to children.

Also, in this part of western Maharashtra, hysterectomies are not rooted in medical malpractice alone. Superstitious beliefs around the menstrual cycle have made hysterectomies rather acceptable. Also, in this water-scarce region where women migrate to work in sugarcane factories or in road construction work, periods are a financial strain as they mean loss of wages for five days.

Sarika Raju Kalgurde, 23, has just come back to her village Hatkarmangewadi after putting in six months of work at a sugarcane factory. She says it is a labour-intensive job and the work hours are unpredictable. Last year, Sarika underwent a hysterectomy, a procedure a private doctor prescribed to cure her of irregular menstrual cycles and white discharge. She readily agreed as she had had two children. Besides, her mother, Jhimbhai (38), too had undergone a hysterectomy more than a decade ago. Most importantly, the decision took care of the five days of being ostracised.

“During periods, we are made to sit outside the hut, also served food outside in separate vessels,” she says. Doing physical labour during periods was difficult. “So my parents sold their animals and pawned their jewellery for this operation that cost us Rs 43,000.”

Lack of awareness

Awareness is missing in the villages of Sangola. Child marriages are common, which explains why women undergo the procedure in their early twenties. Susheela Samadhan Hipurkar, 26, married at 14, had three children, and underwent a hysterectomy two years ago. She is now working as a farm labour. “I have no time to rest,” she says.

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Printable version | Oct 1, 2020 5:43:58 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/poverty-superstition-take-their-toll-on-sangola-womens-health/article8631138.ece

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