Wracked by gender discrimination and disparity, many public spaces continue to remain closed to women in India. Fortunately healthcare is not one of those.

Statistics show that the status of girls and women, who have historically faced health discrimination starting from access to food and nutrition, and eventually, access to formal healthcare has improved.

A recent data from the National Family Health Survey-4 show that the number of women who are underweight has come down significantly in the span of 10 years from over a third of the female population to just over a fifth now. Further, more women have access to healthcare during pregnancy, bringing down the number of maternal mortality rate.

Soumya Swaminathan, Secretary, Department of Health Research, concurred. While speaking to BusinessLine she said that access to healthcare is a concern “The issues of access apply equally to men and women who live in remote areas. Access to healthcare in our country is quite gender balanced.”

Brookings report Another report by Brookings, Health and Morbidity in India, shows that rural women have been leading in accessing public healthcare facilities.

However, while access has improved, a gender disparity still exists in the number of women seeking treatment. Brookings report shows that even as a higher percentage of women suffer from health concerns on an average, the number of women seeking treatment continues to be lower as compared to men. The study shows “a 13 per cent increase in the number of women who report being sick in last 15 days that is driving the overall numbers. There is no overall change in reported ailment levels for male population in India.” But 8.3 per cent of these women do not take their ailments seriously.

“We explore whether there is a gender perspective to this and find that many more women report that their ailment is not considered serious enough to avail medical care. This gender gap has widened over the last 10 years,” the Brookings report says.

Kiran Bedi, Lt Governor of Puducherry and a former IPS officer, weighed in on the gender imbalance in access, especially for those who have been victims of crime. “Healthcare is available but at a cost in India. It's sparse if you are from a marginalised section of society or in remote areas.

“Many women who may be victims of sexual violence will remain at a receiving end… inadequately attended. It makes the victim poorer. Also do not forget a victim of violence needs lots of mental health, facilities of which are very scanty,” she said in an e-mail.