ECSAS 2023 – Turin 26-29 July

Obstetric violence in Bhuj (Gujarat): differential treatment and avoidance strategies in a context of social inequalities

Presenter

Gentile Lucia - Università di Trieste, Storia e istituzioni dell'Asia, Trieste, Italy

Panel

37 – Violent births and deaths: coping with challenging life experiences in South Asia

Abstract

¬†The term ‘obstetric violence’ is defined as mistreatment by health care providers experienced by women during pregnancy, childbirth and post-natal care. This phenomenon intersects with other axes of structural inequality such as gender, nationality, social class, skin colour and religion, producing a negative and often violent experience of these periods. Subject debated between Europe and the American continent, only in the last ten years academic studies have multiplied in India as well, highlighting the high rate of ‘obstetric violence’ present in public and private hospitals. The research points out that this increase is linked to the institutionalisation of childbirth – which began in the 2000s – and to the fact that women from disadvantaged backgrounds – both economically deprived, illiterate and low-caste – are more likely to suffer such violence. The aim of the paper is to interrogate, from an intersectional perspective, the so-called ‘obstetric violence’ faced by women in the city of Bhuj (Gujarat). Starting from the need to question the term of ‘obstetric violence’, the paper will trace its history in India to highlight the production of different practices and knowledge in the obstetric environment and between women to cope – or not – with such violence. Thus, integrating an intersectional analysis helps to reveal the dynamics that can shape women’s vulnerabilities, disclosing the constant renegotiations of power relations within a network of existing oppressions.