MH: Climate crisis in Beed forces women to choose between womb and livelihood

In the semi-arid lands of Maharashtra’s Beed district, women face a stark choice – either endure excruciating menstrual pain or risk losing their livelihoods. climate-induced drought It has devastated the region, pushing families into poverty and forcing women to migrate in search of work in the sugar cane fields.

However, according to a new paper from the International Institute for Labor Statistics, the demanding nature of this labor – coupled with exploitative contracts – leaves women with few options other than having a hysterectomy to avoid missed work and financial penalties. environment and development (IIED).

Lata Waghmare, who travels to Karnataka every year with her husband to work in sugarcane cutting, said she gave birth to her second child in a sugarcane field because they were afraid of “khada (leave)” charges after delivery. Was afraid to take leave later. “The fine for missing a day’s work ranges from Rs 500 to Rs 1,000. I returned to work five days after delivery. To feed the child, I took her with me to the fields,” she told IIED. ,

He said, “While carrying a bundle of sugarcane, I placed it on the floor in a corner. The tractor passed over my child. I lost my child.” The 34-year-old Dalit woman returned to work the next day, unable to take leave to mourn. “I had bleeding for a month after the delivery. In March 2010, I went to Beed and got my uterus removed. (The doctor) told me that the bleeding was due to heavy lifting and lack of rest after delivery,” she said.

Despite widespread outrage in the country, such hysterectomies are still taking place. The procedure, which is mostly done in private clinics, can leave women with lasting pain and mental health problems. researchers surveyed 423 families in two different areas of Beed for the paper titled “Women are paying the price of climate crisis with their pregnancies”.

Of the total, people from 253 households went to work in the sugar industry. Most of the people who migrated for work said they cut sugarcane during the harvest season. Local labor contractors – known as “mukkadam” – typically employ husband-and-wife teams or “pairs” to work in pairs not through formal contracts but through informal agreements.

A typical day for these laborers includes 12 to 16-hour shifts during the six-month harvest period. Men usually cut sugarcane while women bundle and stack it. These couples often face pay cuts when they lose work, creating a fear of taking leave. Jayashree Ovalle, a 45-year-old sugarcane cutter from Kathwada village in Beed district, told the researchers, “After a time my (menstrual) cramps became unbearable. I went to a gynecologist in Beed, who suggested I try heavy weight loss pills.” You should stop lifting things.” Bundle but that was the only source of income for us. So I decided to get a hysterectomy done and get rid of this ‘pain and scars’ every month.”

Other women reported that they had nothing to use as sanitary products except the clothes they used to carry bundles of sugarcane. These are often left covered with pesticides and chemicals, with small particles of sugarcane stuck to them. Ritu Bhardwaj, lead researcher at IIED, said, “When we talk about the damage and loss caused by climate change, we are not just talking about flooded apartments in New York or scorched hills in Greece. Women’s experiences are also the result of climate change, which has destroyed their livelihoods and, what they have lost – their dignity, good health, in some cases, their lives – is difficult to assess.”

IIED said drought is the most common reason for migration and more than half (55.73 percent) of women from migrating families have undergone hysterectomy, while less than a fifth (17.06 percent) of women from families living in Beed have undergone hysterectomy. Are. , Some people told IIED that they were still in their twenties when they went through the process.

Analysis of data between 1986 and 2022 shows an average annual rainfall in Beed of about 2.31 mm per year, with drought becoming increasingly more severe. Village records and IIED survey data suggest a marked change in migration patterns, with 55.67 per cent of people starting to migrate in the last decade, up from 5.42 per cent three decades ago.

This trend is related to the increasing frequency and severity of drought conditions due to climate change.