It’s so sad to see that even in our seemingly modern, advanced society, inequality is still so prevalent around the world. We know that it can be more difficult for women to get jobs, rights, and participation in society, but the same inequality applies to health care. This goes beyond the choice of doctors, it is actually caused by the setup of institutions around the world.
We can see this most prominently in the developing world: In India, where public restrooms are common in low-income slums, the Centre for Civil Society cites 132 public toilets for women compared to 1534 for men in New Delhi. In Liberia, where the current Ebola crisis has hit hard, 75% of victims are women according to the Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID). This fact holds true around the world, but why? It’s because when women act as mothers, they are far more likely to catch diseases from their children. When there is a death in the family in many impoverished nations, it is women who prepare the body for the funeral. Finally, women are more likely to be working in caregiver jobs, which includes taking care of the sick.
Given the higher exposure to disease, you would expect women to experience a higher quality of health care. However, the AWID cites this as untrue. There is a prevalent belief in many societies that women are expected to sacrifice themselves in the family. The same thing that keeps women from being able to pursue careers is what keeps them from seeking adequate health care – a societal pressure to stay quiet and provide support. This same rule applies for women in Canada too – Health Canada indicates that low-income Canadian women are far less likely then men to seek health care when they are feeling pain or sickness, and are 3-4 times more sick in general.
Women are not sick more often because there’s something inherent about their biology (though feel free to correct me if I’m wrong). A culture that expects women to sacrifice themselves is wrong, people should be able to make the choice to look out for their own health and not be judged for it. Let’s hope that in the future, foreign aid targets these inequalities, and domestically, we become aware of this pattern of inequality.