Medical education and violence against women: a gap in women’s rights

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Maria Carolina Sawadi Guizilini and Ms. Maria Victória Lima Waquim, two medical students at Unicesumar, Brazil . They are affiliated to the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), cordial partner of The Sting. The opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writers and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.


Women’s rights have grown considerably in the recent decades due to feminist mobilizations, also observing the need for change in the attributions of health professionals. In Brazil, for example, with the advent of the creation of the Comprehensive Women’s Health Care Program (PAISM) by the Unified Health System (SUS), in 1984, women’s health care went from restricted to childbirth and puerperium, to an integrative analysis of the biopsychosocial being, taking into consideration the individual particularities, acting in the prevention and promotion of women’s health (1). However, the women’s rights in Brazil still suffers from the existing gaps, especially about women in situations of violence.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), health is a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being. In this sense, the woman who suffers violence – regardless of whether it is a physical, psychological or patrimonial violence – is in a health-disease process that must, indispensably, be approached by a trained health professional (2).

The morbidity and mortality related to violence against women in Brazil increased by 30.7% from 2007 to 2017 (3), reinforcing that it is a public health problem that falls on one of the principles of SUS professionals, which is to act in the prevention of injuries. However, it is noticeable the inefficiency of the educational system in training health professionals so that they can identify the occurrence of abuse and other forms of violence, indicating the procedures to be taken when approaching the victim. In addition, other factors that can influence the process at the management of patients who are suffering from violence are related to the psychological and financial dependence of the abusive individual, and how the doctor will refer towards that, to avoid the aggravation of the patient’s situation. Therefore, health professionals need to be aware of the issues involved in cases of violence against women in order to avoid the increase of the risk to the victim and their dependents.  The role of the health professional is crucial, because, through individualized consultations, they can detect problems in the patient’s personal scope, and, if trained, can act in the prevention of cases of violence.

Therefore, the medical student, as a future health professional, has the power to inform themself and promote the dissemination of information about the subject, corroborating the awareness of future and current health professionals about their importance in the treatment and prevention of this health-disease process, besides helping to identify cases during appointments accompanied by their preceptor.

In this sense, the medical students can act within the university itself, promoting the training of colleagues on the mechanisms of violence, its cycles and socioeconomic implications in the lives of women who are victims, and demonstrating to the teachers of their institution the importance of this training in the curriculum of the course, helping to close one of the biggest gaps in the advancement of women’s rights.

Bibliographic references

  1. Saúde da mulher. https://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:dGPil NkRd94J:https://bvsms.saude.gov.br/bvs/publicacoes/politica_nac_atencao_mulher.pdf+&cd=1&hl=pt-BR&ct=clnk&gl=br. Acessado em 22 de setembro de 2020.
  2. FAMÍLIA.https://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:l_zPOzznZMAJ:https://www.unasus.unifesp.br/biblioteca_virtual/esf/2/unidades_conteudos/unidade01/unidade01.pdf+&cd=1&hl=pt- BR & ct = clnk & gl = br. Acessado em 22 de setembro de 2020.
  3. Atlas da violência 2019. https://www.ipea.gov.br/portal/index.php?option=com_conte nt&view=article&id=34784. Acessado em 22 de setembro de 2020.

About the authors

Maria Carolina Sawadi Guizilini, 22 years old, is a 2nd year medical student at Unicesumar-Maringá, from Paraná, affiliated with IFMSA-Unicesumar in 2020. She is a member of the local exchange team of IFMSA-Unicesumar and affiliated with the Academic League of Medical Semiology of Maringá, declares herself interested in issues about women’s health.    
Maria Victória Lima Waquim is a 20 years old medical student and courses the second year of medical school at Unicesumar, Brazil. She is a member of the Academic League of Complementary Medicine (LAMCOM), local coordinator of IFMSA Brasil Unicesumar and member of the local exchange team. In addition, she is interested in issues about humanized medicine, women’s health and mental health, besides scientific initiation.  

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