Prioritizing Gender Equality in Global Health: “It’s all social construct”

Gloria Feldt, Grace Poore, and Sutapa Basu discuss gender disparities, sexual violence, and power dynamics.

This blog post was officially posted on the UNCENSORED WRIHC Blog. The 2014 blog is no longer available. The full article is posted below and archived in the link above.

If you can see a human being as an object, you can justify violence and ill-treatment against that person.

This cycle of dehumanization persists in the modern world. Sutapa Basu, Ph.D., referenced a 2013 World Health Organization report that estimates that one third of women across the world have experienced some form of physical or sexual violence. In particular, women are often violently coerced into sex work.

Dr. Basu explained that this violence has a cost to all of society: hundreds of thousands of healthcare dollars spent on the treatment of physical and psychological problems.

People of non-conforming gender and sexual identities have also faced violence and discrimination that often stems from fear and misunderstanding. Many trans and variant gender youth in America who are forced to leave their homes end up in sex work in order to sustain themselves, explained JoAnne Keatley, MSW.

“Good health is about well-being, and living under a state of intolerance erodes well-being,” said Grace Poore, MA, pointing to the fact that LGBT individuals often face employment discrimination and physical and verbal assault.

Keatley discussed transphobia as a major reason for the disparity in healthcare treatment for trans and gender variant communities. She specifically noted the lack of studies and therefore data regarding trans and variant gender populations. In one of the few studies that exist, a large number of participants mentioned that they were harassed by their provider or interacted with providers who were not trained to treat them. This is concerning in particular because the rate of HIV is high among transgender people.

“It’s all social construct but social construct goes deep,” said Gloria Feldt, the former head of Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

Feldt proposes we redefine “power” in order to tackle issues of gender equality. She suggests we should starting thinking about the power we have to do something, rather than the patriarchal idea of having power over something.

“Power unused is power useless,” said Feldt.

Consider the immensity of these issues.

If your physician harassed you because of an integral part of your identity, would you feel comfortable seeking help from that physician, or any physician, thereafter?

Would you agree to have sex with a stranger for money if the punishment for refusing was a rod covered in cayenne pepper in your vagina?

You have power. How will you use it?

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