Women’s Rights: Another Challenge for Medical Students

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Sara Ayoub, a Lebanese 19 years old third year medical student at the Lebanese University, Beirut. She is 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.


“Oh no sweetie, put your hand down, we are looking for actual physicians”. This is what Tamika Cross, MD, had to hear when she offered her help during a flight emergency.

During the past decades, women have been discriminated against in many different ways. In what follows, we will be focusing on female rights as doctors and patients.

As a matter of fact, the dignity of women is not fully respected when it comes to healthcare. For example, during childbirth, women are sometimes exposed to physical abuse, like slapping them on the thigh, or even yelling at them to push the baby out.

However, persecution is not only limited to patients. Doctor Ranjana Sirvastana, an oncologist from Melbourne, once wrote about a patient who sneaked his hand up an intern’s skirt as she auscultated his chest. In order to prevent similar situations from happening in the future, medical students need to inform women and even young girls about their rights and give them access to contact information of organizations they can dial in case of harassment. As for pregnant ladies, students should benefit from social media platforms and offer live sessions that highlight WHO’s guidelines such as allowing a woman to be accompanied by whoever she wants during childbirth, honoring her decisions about delivery positions (squatting or sitting) and making sure that her privacy is highly esteemed.

Medical students can also assist in educating children at schools about women’s sexual and reproductive rights, by giving them accurate information about general sexual health and sexually transmitted diseases, and by making it clear that a woman has the complete right to decide when and whether or not she wants to have kids. At this point, it is necessary to shed the light on the question of abortion and contraceptives: students are asked to talk about the safety of contraceptives and to remove the stigma that hinders women from discussing this issue with medical professionals.

It is also important to add that during the COVID-19 crisis, we call attention to the vulnerable women and girls. Because of quarantine, they are stuck at home with abusers so it is expected that the number of raping cases tends to increase. In fact, this pandemic will make it difficult to achieve the three ‘zeros’ of UNFPA: zero unmet need for contraception, zero preventable maternal deaths, and zero gender-based violence and harmful practices against women and girls, by 2030. In this case, medical students should profit from telehealth and telemedicine to give psychosocial support as well as online counseling.

Indeed, surgery has always been a challenging field for women in a world where male surgeons are considered “better”. This was proven by a study of thoracic surgery training held by Shari Meyerson, MD, and his colleagues who noticed that female surgical residents were given significantly less autonomy in the OR than their male peers. Therefore, women surgeons are asked to share their experiences to prove that they are skillful enough to hold scalpels.

In summary, as long as there are people who view women’s rights as just “being nice” to them and that gender equity is a “gift” to women; we will be stuck here writing articles about it while they continue to judge us for our uterus.   

References:

https://www.coe.int/en/web/commissioner/-/protect-women-s-sexual-and-reproductive-health-and-rights

https://hbr.org/2018/08/how-discrimination-against-female-doctors-hurts-patients

https://hbr.org/2018/06/whats-holding-women-in-medicine-back-from-leadership

https://www.unfpa.org/press/peace-home-safeguarding-health-and-rights-women-and-girls-%E2%80%93-even-during-covid-19

https://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2018/03/01/589860155/new-guidelines-establish-the-rights-of-women-when-giving-birth

About the author

Sara Ayoub is a Lebanese 19 years old third year medical student at the Lebanese University, Beirut. She is a general member of the Lebanese Medical Students International Committee also known as LeMSIC.

Inspired by the famous saying of Hippocrates: “Wherever the art of medicine is loved, there is also a love for humanity”, she considers the medical career a bridge that will allow her to achieve her main goal in life which is helping the vulnerable and defending human’s rights.

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