Violence Against Women: A Site Dedicated to Providing Information and Resources for Health Care Providers & Survivors of Violence against Women Violence against Women
A site dedicated to providing information and resources for health care providers as well as survivors of violence

Health Care Providers > Health System

Health System Responses to VAW

For effectively reaching out to women facing domestic violence,  the entire health system needs to take on the onus of change. There is a need for the administration to adopt a gender-sensitive approach towards each aspect of the health system, including budgeting.

In addition to training hospital staff on the issue of domestic violence as a health issue, providing necessary infrastructure and institutionalizing the response to domestic violence will help every health professional to fulfill his/her role in this endeavour.

Following are some of the ways in which the health system can contribute:

Training on Domestic Violence as a Health Issue

1. Train health professional towards issues such as Gender, Human Rights and VAW. Create awareness among health professional (Doctors, Nurses, Physiotherapists, Occupational therapists, Social Workers and Labour Staff) about violence against women and its detrimental impact on womens health.

2. Work towards incorporating the above training in medical and nursing curricula. (CEHAT has initiated a project in this regard, that works with Medical School professors in helping them incorporate the teaching of gender into their classrooms. For more information see

3. Train Community Health Volunteers/Community Development Officers to recognize and respond to abuse in communities. Encourage them to spread awareness about the issue amongst communities that they work with.

Ensure early identification of Victims of Domestic Violence

4. Train all staff to identify abuse and respond accordingly.

5. Prominently display posters enumerating symptoms/complaints associated with a history of abuse relevant to each OPD clinic. This will prompt health professionals to probe for abuse while recording history.

6. Display posters in prominent locations in the health facilities and distribute pamphlets to all women patients in order to motivate them to get help.

7. Screening of certain cases such as those of attempted suicide, burns and rape must be incorporated in protocols for their management as they are most likely to be facing severe domestic violence.

Improve Infrastructure and lay down Protocols

8. Develop protocols for responding to women facing domestic violence which must be adhered to by every health provider.

9. Incorporate screening questions into routine history-taking protocol.

10. Provide adequate space in OPD clinics to ensure privacy during screening. Evolve administrative and information systems which respect the confidentiality of women facing violence.

Direct Support to Survivors
11. Co-ordinate with various womens groups, counseling services, legal services and shelters so that women who are screened can be referred there for further assistance.

12. Evolve a multi-disciplinary team within the hospital to respond to medical, social, emotional needs of abused women.

Changing Community Attitude

13. Encourage Community Health Volunteers to spread awareness about the issues of domestic violence within the community.

14. Dialogue with young men and abusers in order to prevent violence.

15. Respect choices made by women patients

16. Promote a Zero tolerance approach to violence within the health care system.

Examining inherent beliefs

The influence of gender on health outcomes is similar in strength to religion, race, social status and wealth. Health care providers comply with gender skewed norms and thus help perpetuate the gender differences in health seeking and health outcomes. Thus as health care providers it becomes important for us to re-examine our own orientation towards young and old women as well as girl children. To this effect there are some common violations that take place within hospital settings.  Furthermore, as healthcare providers we also perpetuate gender discrimination through regular practice:

-In utero : Sex selection procedures
-Young girls : Victim blaming in cases of sexual violence
-Prescriptive practices in sexuality issues
-Insensitive Contraception / Family Planning,&      Reproductive Health Services
-Men and doctors : primary decision-makers about sexual activity, fertility, and contraceptive use.
-We almost coerce women to undergo TLs with MTPs.
-Doctors are unable to or uncaring about providing women strong, sensitive, confidential counseling services
-OPDs: Inadequate privacy
-Wards: Inadequate privacy, eg: few screens
-Lack of one stop care centers for Sexual assault victims
-Lack of social workers and counselors trained in addressing violence

If you are a health care professional or work in the health system - check to see if you or your institution follows the above norms when responding to survivors of sexual violence.

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