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Burn injuries sustained in kitchen accidents claim 91,000 lives of women on averag

e annually in the country. It s time this insidious form of gender violence became
a public health issue
A country raising its voice against violence against women has so far ignored a
health concern that is taking a heavier toll than the most serious health condit
ions. Statistics tell the story: India recorded 45,000 maternal deaths in 2015,
cervical cancer claims 74,000 lives annually, and 36,735 cases of rape were reco
rded in 2014. And the health concern that hasn t become a talking point yet
burn i
njuries claims 91,000 lives of women on average every year. In almost all cases
it is the kitchen in the marital home where the woman ostensibly blunders, putti
ng her life at risk. And most victims are young.
Not glamorous enough
A recently-published paper on Gendered pattern of burn injuries in India: a negle
cted health issue in the Reproductive Health Matters (RHM) journal seeks that thi
s gender violence be made a public health issue. It notes: Deaths due to burns ar
e four times higher among women aged 18-35 years , and goes on to state that death
s due to burns are one of the main causes of death in the 15 to 44 age group. Au
thored by public health professionals Padma Bhate-Deosthali and Lakshmi Lingam,
the paper states that of the 140,000 fatal deaths due to burn injuries, 91,000 a
re of women as per the national burns programme of the Indian government. The pa
per notes it has never been explored why young girls die of accidental burns aft
er marriage, but cook safely in their natal homes. Dr. Madhuri Gore, former head
of theDepartment of Surgery at Mumbai s Sion Hospital, recalls no change either i
n the nature of injuries or the government s attitude in prioritising burns as a h
ealth concern in the 25 years she spent working on the issue. These cases are rep
orted more from the low socio-economic strata and do not have the glamour of car
diac diseases or hypertension, she says. Citing from a study she conducted, she s
aid 40 per cent of the 200 burns cases she analysed were suicidal or homicidal a
nd the remaining were reported as accidental. But police cases were registered o
nly in 5 per cent of the cases.
Another analysis of cases was done by Dr. Vinita Puri, head of the Department of
Plastic Surgery at Mumbai s King Edward Memorial (KEM) Hospital, where again case
s that appeared suicidal were reported as accidental burns. It is unlikely for a
person to suffer 60 to 80per cent burns if it is accidental, she says.
While some doctors say cases have dropped with fewer households using kerosene s
toves for cooking now, data suggests otherwise. As per the national burns program
me itself, there is no drop and the history of cases has moved from stove to cyl
inder bursts or clothes catching fire while cooking, says Ms. Bhate-Deosthali.
Burn injuries sustained in kitchen accidents claim 91,000 lives of women on averag
e annually in the country. It s time this insidious form of gender violence became
a public health issue
A country raising its voice against violence against women has so far ignored a
health concern that is taking a heavier toll than the most serious health condit
ions. Statistics tell the story: India recorded 45,000 maternal deaths in 2015,
cervical cancer claims 74,000 lives annually, and 36,735 cases of rape were reco
rded in 2014. And the health concern that hasn t become a talking point yet
burn i
njuries claims 91,000 lives of women on average every year. In almost all cases
it is the kitchen in the marital home where the woman ostensibly blunders, putti
ng her life at risk. And most victims are young.
Not glamorous enough

A recently-published paper on Gendered pattern of burn injuries in India: a negle


cted health issue in the Reproductive Health Matters (RHM) journal seeks that thi
s gender violence be made a public health issue. It notes: Deaths due to burns ar
e four times higher among women aged 18-35 years , and goes on to state that death
s due to burns are one of the main causes of death in the 15 to 44 age group. Au
thored by public health professionals Padma Bhate-Deosthali and Lakshmi Lingam,
the paper states that of the 140,000 fatal deaths due to burn injuries, 91,000 a
re of women as per the national burns programme of the Indian government. The pa
per notes it has never been explored why young girls die of accidental burns aft
er marriage, but cook safely in their natal homes. Dr. Madhuri Gore, former head
of theDepartment of Surgery at Mumbai s Sion Hospital, recalls no change either i
n the nature of injuries or the government s attitude in prioritising burns as a h
ealth concern in the 25 years she spent working on the issue. These cases are rep
orted more from the low socio-economic strata and do not have the glamour of car
diac diseases or hypertension, she says. Citing from a study she conducted, she s
aid 40 per cent of the 200 burns cases she analysed were suicidal or homicidal a
nd the remaining were reported as accidental. But police cases were registered o
nly in 5 per cent of the cases.
Another analysis of cases was done by Dr. Vinita Puri, head of the Department of
Plastic Surgery at Mumbai s King Edward Memorial (KEM) Hospital, where again case
s that appeared suicidal were reported as accidental burns. It is unlikely for a
person to suffer 60 to 80per cent burns if it is accidental, she says.
While some doctors say cases have dropped with fewer households using kerosene s
toves for cooking now, data suggests otherwise. As per the national burns program
me itself, there is no drop and the history of cases has moved from stove to cyl
inder bursts or clothes catching fire while cooking, says Ms. Bhate-Deosthali.