Violence Is The Cause Of Female ‘Accidental Deaths’: KEM Study

KEM Hospital found 'unnatural deaths' of females are reported as “accidental deaths.” 21% of these are caused by domestic violence!

The forensic department of civic-run KEM Hospital-Parel conducted a study on the percentage of women and girls that die due to gender-based violence and also assessed the pattern of injury to them. According to the study, the rate of violence against women is the highest due to domestic reasons. 

The hospital study discovered that female unnatural deaths are classified as “accidental deaths.” The investigation, carried out in cooperation with Vital Strategies’ Data for Health programme, featured a retrospective analysis of female autopsies performed between May 2017 and April 2022 with Accidental Death Report data (ADR).

181 of the 840 unnatural deaths of women were allegedly the result of gender-based violence, and 42 out of those cases (ADR) referenced a violent past. Among the 181 gender-based violence instances, the study found that 47% (86) were suicides, 47% (85) were accidents, and 6% (10) were homicides.

Among the 181 cases of violence, 67% of women were married and 53% were unmarried. 24% of deaths were due to unarmed assaults. 

Marriage and family troubles accounted for 87% of all deaths, making them the main causes. One-third of all fatalities were the result of failed romantic or personal relationships. Intimate partners were responsible for 61% of fatalities, while family members were to blame in 39% of cases.

Are our hospitals doing enough for DV victims?

Health professionals at public health facilities have a crucial role in identifying and offering aid to survivors as their initial point of professional contact.

According to a report by the International Center for Research for Women by Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, women either disclose violence voluntarily or in response to inquiries made by healthcare professionals after noticing certain signs and symptoms during an outpatient or inpatient session.

Once recognized, they receive medical care, their abuse history is recorded, any necessary documentation is gathered during the sexual assault, medico-legal help is provided, and they are informed about crisis prevention centres such as Dilaasa. 

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To raise awareness of violence against women as a public health concern, many hospitals put up posters and gave out cards and brochures on the subject.

The role of crisis prevention centres

If a victim chooses to go to the crisis prevention centre, she can get a hospital-based clinic that offers crisis intervention and psychosocial support services.

The crisis centre’s counselling techniques assist women in placing the blame for the violence on the perpetrator rather than on themselves. Additionally, it gives women the techniques and resources they need to both stop and heal from violence.

Among the present policies and programmes of governmental and non-governmental groups, there are many models of “crisis intervention centres” (CICs) for handling violence. These can be found outside the healthcare system and in hospitals, respectively.  

Crisis prevention centres such as Dilaasa are sustainable public hospital-based approaches for responding to domestic and sexual abuse cases. The presence of a crisis centre’s setting within a public hospital improves accessibility and early detection of violence against women, with many women being identified just two years after experiencing abuse. 

When married women in childbearing age groups interact with health services, it is possible to spot violence when they are receiving pregnancy care.

A health system practice called “Dilaasa,” which translates to “assurance” in Hindi, was created in Mumbai to meet the needs of women who were subjected to domestic and sexual assault.

It developed as a result of the observation that many women who are victims of domestic violence seek medical attention but only get care for their physical symptoms. These aren’t even noted as domestic violence incidents.

The Dilaasa model

The Dilaasa Model largely adheres to the tenets of feminist counselling, which recognizes patriarchal institutions as one of the root causes of domestic abuse. Dilaasa addresses the worries, anxieties, and demands of women survivors to help them feel as though they were not to blame for the violence they had experienced. 

The Dilaasa Model’s primary goals are to protect the woman, assist her in recovering from abuse, and empower her to take charge of her life. Dilaasa offers a comprehensive service by offering emergency shelter and legal advice.

In sexual assault cases, medical professionals adhere to WHO guidelines, which has helped them better understand the circumstances of sexual assault, reject unscientific elements like the finger test or hymenal status, conduct gender-sensitive examinations while gathering evidence, offer reasoned medical opinions, and explain the absence of injuries and/or forensic evidence to aid survivors in court.

Physicians are now able to offer logical medical opinions and explain the absence of forensic evidence that supports survivors in court and/or injuries.

 The experience of adopting these standards inspired the demand for national protocols and guidelines that are victim-centred and respect the right to healthcare for those who have experienced sexual abuse.

An urgent need for our healthcare systems to catch domestic violence early 

Crisis prevention centres such as the Dilaasa model are a powerful tool that helps women find support in the hospital environment and the healthcare system. It empowers women to speak up about domestic violence. More centres across India are the need of the hour. 

The KEM study emphasizes the major gaps in contextual information about gender-based violence among the study subjects. Several times, it is a case of gender-based violence, but because proper reporting is lacking, it goes undetected. 

To offer a complete picture of the burden of deaths due to gender-based violence, there is an urgent need for systematic coordination and linkage with other related organizations for producing accurate statistics and communicating with policymakers.

Image Source: Martin-dm, via Getty Images, free on CanvaPro

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