Nepal must toughen fight on women's "fallen womb" crisis -Amnesty

Thu Feb 20, 2014 5:03am EST
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By Gopal Sharma

KATHMANDU, Feb 20 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - When pregnant Nepali teenager Reena Pokharel began labor in her remote village, her family consulted a soothsayer, pressed her stomach and told her to cough to force the baby out.

After four days of painful labor, the 17-year-old delivered a girl. But with no skilled midwives present, her placenta was not immediately removed, triggering a debilitating health condition that left her unable to perform daily tasks.

"I became an outcast in my own family," Pokharel, now 46, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

"They said I had brought bad luck and called me an evil omen. The community would not eat or work on farms with me. My husband beat me, saying I was lazy and unlucky."

Uterine prolapse - a medical condition in which the uterus is displaced from its normal position into the vagina - affects women worldwide but is more common in Nepal, where one in 10 is affected, rights group Amnesty International said on Thursday.

Sometimes called "fallen womb", the problem is a direct result of gender discrimination that deprives women of sexual and reproductive rights, Amnesty said in a report.

This leads to limited access to healthcare, harsh working conditions during and after pregnancy, inadequate nutrition, early marriage and rapid successive births.

"This is an urgent human rights issue," said Madhu Malhotra, director of Amnesty's gender, sexuality and identity program. "Hundreds of thousands of women are suffering needlessly in Nepal today."   Continued...