Menstruation has always been a taboo in India. Even though there have been a lot of attempts to normalize the concept in recent times, it is a topic that is still looked down upon. Women have been facing a lot of discrimination in India because menstruation bars them from visiting a lot of places and they are also excluded from social events.
We came across a recent report about how this problem keeps on growing. The case comes from the Beed region of Maharashtra. This particular region is called the ‘Sugar Belt’ because the primary occupation of the people here is growing sugarcane. This particular area has a lot of employment opportunities, which is why people from across Maharashtra migrate to this region.
A study conducted by BBC found that a surprising number of women have undergone surgical procedures to remove their wombs in the past three years, mostly because they can get work as sugarcane harvesters. Once women migrate to this area for work, they are at the mercy of contractors who exploit them quite a lot.
They are reluctant to hire women because cane-cutting is hard work and women often miss a day or two of work due to their periods. These contractors make them pay a penalty if they miss work no matter what the reason is.
The living conditions of the women who live and work in this area are horrendous as they live in temporary huts or tents. They have no access to toilets or even clean water. There are no fixed timings for harvesting the cane and sometimes they have to work through the night to meet the demands made by their contractor.
Because of their poor living conditions, women catch infections and notorious doctors in the area encourage them to undergo surgery even when the problem can be treated with medicine. Most of these women are married at a very young age and have two-three kids by the time they are in their mid-20s. Since they aren’t educated, they believe what the doctor tells them and undergo a hysterectomy. This has turned several villages in the area into “villages of womb-less women.”
After their hysterectomies, these women go through a lot of changes in their body, none of which are for the good. They get persistent pain in their back, neck, and knees and wake up with swollen faces, hands, and feet. They also complain about constant dizziness and can’t even walk short distances. They are no longer able to work in the fields.
However, this issue was raised last month in the state assembly by legislator Neelam Gorhe. A committee has now been set up to investigate several of these cases. A lot of activists have also turned their attention to these areas and are now working on educating these women about menstruation and the side effects of hysterectomies. A number of activists are also fighting for these women so that they get equal rights, no penalties for leaves and menstrual leaves every month.
We hope to reach out to people who can help these women and bring a major change in their life so that no woman has to go through a nefarious surgery to prioritize work.