If Men Died During Childbirth, the World Would Care

sierraleone The most dangerous place in the world to be pregnant, an article which appeared yesterday in The Western Mail, hones in on Sierra Leone as the most dangerous place to deliver a child. There’s nothing exceptional about the story. It’s been written hundreds, probably thousands of times, with good reason.

In the last twenty years, there have been no improvements in saving the lives of the half a million women worldwide who die each year giving birth. This doesn’t have to happen. If every woman had access to simple treatments for common problems in pregnancy and childbirth, backed up by emergency obstetric care near where they live, three quarters of these deaths could be averted. The cost of doing this every year would be less than a third of what the United States spends on the Iraq War each month. I can guarantee you that if half a million men were dying of anything related to their genitals, the world would care.

The above photo is titled New baby and proud mother, Kabala, Sierra Leone (West Africa) and is via the creative commons Flickr stream of gbaku.

Susanna Smith is the Program Officer for Communications at the International Women’s Health Coalition. Read her bio here.



9 responses to “If Men Died During Childbirth, the World Would Care

  1. Why are you framing the discussion like this? It's not constructive in any way. It's rather easily taken as a insult and may turn people away from your message. It's a lazy reduction of an important issue to a simplistic point of view. You should be better than that.

    I've deleted three different responses to this post that I considered "stooping down to the level of…" Is that the sort of response you want to elicit from people?

    You can and should engage in a higher level of discourse than this.

  2. I agree with Steff and disagree with Sean. There seems to be an erroneous belief around these days that equality has been reached- at least in western countries. This is making us apathetic about inequality in developing countries and blind to the sexism still rife in the west.

    If men were dying at the rate of 500,000 per year from simple things like internal bleeding then the world would take notice. But the world still doesn't respect the birthing process or the women whose lives it claims.

  3. A higher-level of discourse?

    Go to any of major academic search engines, type in “maternal mortality,” and you’ll get thousands of hits. The problem has been examined from every academic angle. Yet those thousands of publications haven’t changed the fact that for the last twenty years 500,000 women have died from childbirth every year. We know what women need to make it through pregnancy and childbirth safely. Yet, the world has invested very little in ensuring women have access to affordable contraceptives; safe, legal abortion services; prenatal care; skilled assistance during birth; and emergency obstetric care.

    National governments should commit to providing all of their citizens with the health care they need, which includes the sexual and reproductive health care that makes childbirth safer. When I say national governments, we must realize that they are largely made up of men. Currently, over 80 percent of the world’s parliamentarians are men. In fact, only 17 percent of the U.S. Congress is women.

    So if men are angered by this post, as you imply, they should be. It is an outrage to me, as it should be to you and every other man, that we let women die this way. Look at your mother, your daughter, your wife, your sister, every woman in your life, and respect and value her. Teach your sons and daughters to do the same and to recognize that gender inequality in pay and in power, in education and employment is real. Until we value women lives as highly as we do men’s, the world will not act to stop their deaths from preventable causes like childbirth.

    1. I agree with Amaya wholeheartedly. "There seems to be an erroneous belief around these days that equality has been reached- at least in western countries. This is making us apathetic about inequality in developing countries and blind to the sexism still rife in the west." And this is what fuels male anger when gender inequality is raised in undeniable light.

      This specific problem has multiple layers. It is exacerbated by poverty and gender bias, both of which take more severe forms in the region. And it's all based on dominator cultural norms, which exist throughout the world.

      Finally, Susanna is right that a condition that only threatened the reproductive health of men would be afforded more economic resources than those that only affect women, primarily because men, by and large, control the worldwide dominator culture.

      Its an outrage that so many people, women and men, die throughout the world from preventable issues, due to economic factors. Maternal mortality can be reduced, it is not overwhelmingly expensive, and the economic outcome usually outweighs the upfront cost of providing care.

      So, count this man as outraged.

  4. Equality is not a gender issue, its a human issue, inequality is a combined problem regardless of gender, making it gender specific diminishes the combined potential of rectification, since gender inequality is the darwin legacy conditioning all inequality, the issue is capitilism and its inability to confront the issues in all areas significant to development of human potential. I wrote some of my views on it in this blog: http://objector.gaia.com/blog

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