Effect of Superstition on Health and Nutrition of Women
Written by Suman Oak
A woman is supposed to cook and feed her family. She does it to the best of her ability but without any training in nutrition and health. She knows a little bit about traditional cooking passed on to her by her mother. Some times she makes some fancy, exotic dishes if she can afford it. But she is not trained or even informed regarding the constituents of food, their nutritional values, the different diets needed by different members of the family, etc. The buying power of an ordinary Indian family is so little that members hardly get enough to eat. Under such circumstances the housewife is the worst hit of all. ...view middle of the document...
Poverty of course is at the root of the problem. But one must keep in mind that poverty is not the only cause of malnutrition.
Within four to five years after a girl starts her periods, the growth of her body is complete. Generally a girl starts her periods at 12 - 13 years. That means she may marry at the age of 18 years but not before. However, girls are still married off at 15 and 16 years! Due to early marriage, especially in villages, a girl conceives and delivers at a very early age. Her womb is not grown enough to conceive. Her food intake is inadequate. The growth of the baby that is born to her is stunted as a result. In India 30% of newborn babies weigh less than 2.5 kg. The infant mortality in India is ten times that of even other developing countries, leave alone comparing it with developed countries. Five hundred out of a lakh of women die during delivery in India while in other developing countries the figure is 20!
Woman's health in this country is no doubt very much neglected but the point here is how all these things make her helpless and prone to be superstitious. She takes resort to vows and observances to overcome her chronic physical and mental afflictions, which are in reality caused by malnutrition. Many times the cause of her chronic illness is taken to be a spell and a lot of time, effort and money are spent on Devrishis or sorcerers. The responsibilities of married life weigh down on her immature body and mind, as she is married at a very early age. The fear of her or her baby's death during delivery constantly gnaws at her. All this causes mild or severe mental illness, which of course is taken to be an attack by a ghost and usual measures are taken to repel the spell cast by them. These conditions of a woman's life form the material foundation of her superstitious psyche.
Most women are under continuous mental strain for various reasons; the husband does not love or the mother-in-law harasses or recognition and prestige are lacking or there is no harmony in the family or lack of satisfaction in sexual life and so on. The strain causes a split in personality of the woman that is related to specific period, place and person. For example, at the temples of Ambabai and Dattatray one finds many possessed women ad it is generally not pretence. It is either a deep state of self-hypnosis or mild mental illness - hysteria. Hysteria is an incidental affliction. The patient suffers from...