Institute for Social and Economic Change
Working Paper: 406
Gender Relations in the Context of Women’s Health in Chennai
Changes in gender relations have created enormous pressure on women, which ultimately affects their health behaviour. For them, seeking medical treatment depends on their social position and other issues. The current study is based on 75 in-depth interviews with married women in the city of Chennai, and shows how a high proportion of the poor experienced illness, and delayed seeking treatment despite an early reporting of illness. This extended the length of suffering and severely impacted their routine activities. The situation is worse among the poor, especially where the spouse is deviant in nature, and also lacks responsibility. Here decision-making, medical expenses and physical mobility are highly restricted. However, the traditionally inbuilt responsibility of men enables middle -class women to pursue improved health behaviour. The study suggests that the gap between the cultural claim of norms and the natural claim of the body need to be bridged to improve the health behaviour of women.