India: Bengaluru Report links rising women's deaths due to burns to domestic violence Print E-mail

 Friday October 21, 2016

Burns, single largest cause of death among young women: Report

By Afshan Yasmeen

S.M. Jamdar, former Home Secretary, releasing the report in Bengaluru on Thursday.

Majority of the cases are associated with domestic violence, according to the study

Twenty-seven-year-old G. Jeevitha, mother of two girl children, still curses the fateful day on which she got married to her maternal uncle. She was constantly harassed for seven years for not giving birth to a male child, until one day, in a fit of anger, her husband poured kerosene on her and burnt her at their house in Yelahanka in the city.

Rushed by neighbours to the Mahabodhi Burns Ward in the Victoria Hospital, Ms. Jeevitha, who had suffered 20 per cent burns, has been single-handedly fighting a case against her husband for the last two years. Although her mother is taking care of her children in their hometown of Chittoor, circumstances have forced her to stay away from home to earn a livelihood.

She is one of the hundreds of harassment victims who end up at the burns ward in Victoria Hospital (or the Bangalore Medical College and Research Institute). At least 38 per cent of the cases are said to be abetted suicides or homicides.

Link to domestic violence
Although a majority of the burns cases are associated with domestic violence, it has been neglected as an area of research. To draw attention to this fact, Sochara, a community-based health group, and Vimochana, a forum for women’s rights, have brought out a report titled ‘Surviving burns with care: A gender-based analysis of burns epidemiology in Bengaluru and challenges to the health system’.

Documenting burn injury records spanning two decades, the report has revealed that the number of women who suffered burn injuries from 2001 to 2011 was 60 per cent higher than that of men. The average total body surface area with burns was 56 per cent for women as compared with 36 per cent for men, the report stated.

Medical and social challenge
Moreover, although burns cases among women increased at the rate of 28 cases per year, the number of beds in the two government-run burns wards has not increased.

There is a small six-bed ward at the St John’s National Academy of Health Sciences. The 54-bed burns ward at Victoria Hospital, which is one of the largest in Asia, gets at least eight cases a day.

Pointing out that burns are primarily seen as a medical challenge, the report stated that it is the single largest cause of death among women between the ages of 15 and 34 at Victoria Hospital. “Death by burns is the tip of the iceberg of domestic violence against women and there is an urgent need for a systematic response to reduce burn incidents and provide qualitative care and support to victims”.

Adithya Pradyumma from Sochara, who put together the report, recommended several interventions that could help prevent burn injuries, reduce violent incidents, and improve safety standards, burns care and other rehabilitation and supportive services.