It's 2015. Today, women with psychological illnesses across progressive Indian cities are being subjected to treatment that's downright dehumanizing. In a shocking report, provocatively titled ' Treated Worse than Animals ’, the Human Rights Watch organisation has uncovered graphic details of alienating treatment dished out to Indian women with mental illnesses.
This video, released by the NGO in late 2014 summarises the findings of the 112-page report linked above.
As described in the video above, most girls and women have no choice about living in these 'hospitals'. Further investigations have uncovered glaring loopholes in the system that deny judicial access and effective reporting mechanisms to female patients with intellectual disabilities. In fact, the law says that it is better for other people to make choices for them. This may be a difficult position to justify, but authorities have argued that women with these disabilities are incapable of the mental fortitude required for judiciary.If we were to look beyond this argument, it still wouldn't justify what seems to be a complete lack of accountability at these Mental Hospitals. They are often overcrowded and dirty. Patients have been verbally, physically, and sexually abused. Some have been given drugs and invasive medical treatments without their knowledge, or consent. Or as Deepali - a 46-year-old woman - recounts, "The nurses would make us have the medications in front of them. If I complained that there were too many tablets, the nurse would sometimes forcefully put the pills in my mouth and stroke my throat to send them down, the way I feed my dogs…I woke up one night and I couldn’t move; my body was in intense physical pain. A nurse came and jabbed an injection into my body, without even taking off my clothes." What's even more shocking is an incident where a 45-year-old Indian woman, Vidya, was institutionalised by her husband. He was able to do so under the terms of the Mental Health Act without even a court order. Vidya suffered through invasive treatments, including Shock Therapy (ECT), without her consent. She believes that her husband wanted to label her as "insane" to get a divorce without paying alimony. "I was like a vegetable,” she recounts. Despite a 2013 ban on non-consensual ECT by the UN, there have been 31 documented cases where it was forcefully used on women and girls in India.
The Human Rights Watch, along with a handful of Indian NGOs has issued several recommendations for Government interventions. You can read these recommendations here .
Featured image courtesy: Human Rights Watch.