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
She traced the country's extensive problem to ingrained
discrimination against women and girls that successive governments
had failed to eradicate.
Many Nepali women develop the condition in their twenties, Amnesty
said, although older women are more commonly afflicted elsewhere.
The sufferers were often too embarrassed to seek healthcare, or even
to talk about their pain, it added.
This subjects them to social stigma and accusations of laziness by
families who do not realize there is a problem.
The mountainous Himalayan nation, wedged between India and China,
has been riven by conflict and instability for years. Nepal has been
governed under an interim constitution since the 2008 abolition of a
[to top of second column]
Political infighting has fuelled the economic woes of Nepal's
population of 27 million, a quarter of whom live on an income of
less than $2 a day. The crisis has hit development efforts, driving
thousands of young people to seek work abroad.
In 2008, the Supreme Court ruled the high incidence of the
problem was a violation of reproductive rights and ordered action by
the government, but six years later, efforts have fallen far short
of what is needed, Amnesty said.
London-based Amnesty urged Nepal to recognize the high incidence of
the problem as a human rights issue, since families traditionally
grant few women a say in when to marry, whether to use contraception
or have children or even how many.
The government is helping through assistance in deliveries,
contraceptive distribution and free treatment, said health ministry
official Kiran Regmi, who estimates that over 40,000 sufferers have
been operated on in the last four or five years.
"More and more women are taking these services," Regmi said.
(Writing by Nita Bhalla; editing by
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