Different communities perceive men and women differently with regards to cultural practices. In a patriarchal society, women are mostly seen as the weaker gender, especially when they are compared to the stronger gender, their male counterparts. This is manifested in social, economic and political activities. Some of the cultural practices exposed to women have adverse effects on their health as discussed by Abraham Verghese in his book ‘Cutting for Stone.’ He exposed some of the cultural practices in Ethiopia based on the Missing Hospital (Verghese, 2010). Similar cultures are also put into practice in Gambia, which is illustrated in this paper, and the facts are presented effectively for the readers to evaluate and understand.
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Female genital mutilation is one of the social practices that is observed in both settings which portrays the level of gender inequality in most poor regions in the world. Female genital mutilation is done in Gambia to reduce sexual immorality among girls (Filippi et al., 2006). In his novel, Cutting for Stone, Abraham Verghese discusses the plight of Genet after she engages in sexual intercourse with Shiva (Verghese, 2010). Her mother Rosina forces her to participate in female circumcision after she learns this and she commits suicide after that as a result of guilt and knowing what she had exposed her daughter to. Similarly, in Gambia, female circumcision is highly practiced which in turn exposes women to harsh health conditions such as, obstructed labor, infections, perineal tears, fistula, and infertility (Filippi et al., 2006).
In patriarchal societies, pregnant women are not taken care of. They are left on their own to perform duties which pose a threat to their health. In his novel, Abraham Verghese outlines how Dr. Stone sends a message to Sister Mary Praise to report to work despite knowing her condition (Verghese, 2010). Dr. Stone contrasted his condition of an amputated finger with her pregnancy condition hence showing that her condition was not special. On failing to turn up for work, he went looking for her and found her with the matron in labor but acted helplessly. Thomas Stone abandoned her wife sister Mary Joseph at the time of birth (Verghese, 2010). Similarly, in Gambia women do not enjoy any privileges when pregnant. Those at work are never granted sick leaves while those in the households are not bailed out in carrying out house duties by their husbands or other members of the family. More so, they get engaged in field activities with no remunerations.
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In some communities, decision making is solely left for men. Women have no control over the decisions on the kind of health care they ought to receive at the time of birth. As a result, they are exposed to unskilled personnel and poor health quality which results in complications during delivery. In the novel, ‘Cutting for Stone,’ at the time of birth, the matron realizes that Sister Mary Praise needs a CS-section and turns the patient over to Dr. Stone who acts helpless and loses control over the condition (Verghese, 2010). She gives birth to conjoined premature twins and later on dies as a result of ruptured uterine walls. Gambia displays a high maternal mortality rate due to poor health quality services and lack of facilities (Filippi et al., 2006). Some of the socio-cultural practices also prevent women from acquiring resources at the time of birth. Some communities require women to give birth at home under the supervision of traditional birth attendants while only a few women with birth complications seek specialized attention. Other factors that lead to high maternal mortality rates include lack of funds, poor transport, lack of confidence in healthcare facilities, and a domestic workload.
Sexual harassment is another factor that defines Gambia and other developing countries concerning healthcare services delivery (Filippi et al., 2006). Some communities perceive women as objects of sex. In the novel, ‘Cutting for stone,’ Shiva was only interested in sex in his relationship with Genet. He ended up breaking her virginity which disappointed his brother Marion (Verghese, 2010). When Marion met his father in future, he also ran into Genet who was very sick at that time. She was bleeding and had pain during urination, but despite her condition, Marion still engaged in sex with her. He was diagnosed with Hepatitis which may have made him run into a coma. Stone’s mother also dies from a ruptured aneurysm as a result of a syphilis infection from his husband.
In conclusion, the retrogressive cultural practices among women have a negative impact on health and their well-being. Practices such as female genital mutilation, sexual harassment, poor health practices during birth, and lack of care for pregnant women may claim their lives. This causes a drop in the working-class population which leads to a poor economy of both the low and middle-income countries. Women play an active role in developing the economy and enhancing the population of the country. It is, therefore, important to ensure high-quality health care for pregnant women for their sake and the sake of the unborn child.
- Filippi, V., Ronsmans, C., Campbell, O. M., Graham, W. J., Mills, A., Borghi, J., … & Osrin, D. (2006). Maternal health in poor countries: the broader context and a call for action. The Lancet, 368(9546), 1535-1541.
- Verghese, A. (2010). Cutting for stone: a novel. Knopf.