Though quantitative evidence suggests that women are more likely to suffer from physical pain than men, little is known about their lived experiences. Nor are the processes and mechanisms through which social determinants of health cause pain well investigated or documented in India. In this Policy Report, Living with Pain: Women’s Everyday Lives and Health in Rural Bihar, Kanika Sharma discusses findings from qualitative fieldwork in rural Bihar, focusing on causes and consequences of pain among women agricultural workers, the group most vulnerable to physical pain. Pain, especially back pain, was found to be overwhelmingly common. The respondents embedded pain within the larger context of adverse health experiences throughout the life course. In addition, the backbreaking nature of women’s household and paid work, lack of protective nutrition and rest, and pervasive domestic violence emerged as important contributors to pain. The overall healthcare system was found to be largely ineffective. Informal private health providers, while accessible, were likely to be harmful. Neglect and mistreatment were common at the government health facilities, making women’s medical encounters disempowering. The Report outlines a few potential policy approaches, and ends with a hope that pain among women would become more central to discussions on gender and health in India.
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