Increasing hysterectomy and sugarcane cutting in Maharashtra

A vast majority of women from parts of Maharashtra, especially those from poor families, who migrate to the sugar-belt to harvest sugarcanes for daily wages during a period of 6 months every year, has undergone hysterectomy, as contractors give priority to women with ‘no uterus’ for work, increasing work productivity.
Increasing hysterectomy and sugarcane cutting in Maharashtra
Representative image

CHENNAI: Menstruation has always been a taboo in India. Menstruating women are considered to be impure and are excluded from daily activities, in several parts of the country, even in the 21st century. In recent times, these archaic ideas have been widely challenged, particularly by urban educated women, despite numerous women, still going through various grieving practices revolving around menstruation.

A vast majority of women from parts of Maharashtra, especially those from poor families, who migrate to the sugar-belt to harvest sugarcanes for daily wages during a period of 6 months every year, has undergone hysterectomy, as contractors give priority to women with ‘no uterus’ for work, increasing work productivity.

The National Family Health Survey data show that the national average rate of hysterectomy undergone by women is 3.2%, but shockingly, that aof Maharashtra is 2.6%.

Hysterectomy is a surgery to remove a woman’s uterus, which results in no periods and no pregnancy in operated women. The surgery is said to have adverse impacts on the woman’s health as it could lead to hormonal imbalance, calcium deficiency, and also constant body ache.

To work as sugarcane cutters nearly 6 lakh people, including pregnant and lactating women migrate from Beed, Osmanabad, Sangli and Solapur districts of Maharashtra to the northern states of sugar-belt for six months.

Contractors are reluctant to hire women as they may miss two or three days every month during their periods and cane cutting is a hard job. Also, there’s no proper, even basic sanitation facilities in the farms. Sleeping and eating is a plight for the sugarcane cutters during those six months.

Activists claim that unscrupulous doctors encourage these women to undergo unnecessary surgery, even for minor gynaecological problems that can be treated with medications, stating the poor hygiene and irrevocable plight of poverty they endure.

A committee report pointed out that social issues like early marriages and most women would have given birth to 2-3 kids before their mid-twenties which make them consider that removing the womb as no harm, lack of awareness on women health, water scarcity and rudimentary background of living and unhygienic environment were few among the many reasons for this tragic situation.

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