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The Prolonged Saga of Gender Bias in the Healthcare Industry

By Sarah Arora

Abstract – Gender bias in healthcare refers to unequal treatment and unequal access to medical care and services based on gender. This can result in a lack of recognition of certain medical conditions, a lack of proper treatment, and even discrimination in medical facilities. The issue of gender bias in healthcare has serious consequences for both women and men, and is a violation of their legal rights.. This article explores the gaps in the healthcare industry owing to the continued saga of gender bias. In addition, the article also suggests the role of the relevant government bodies and healthcare industry in supervising the deprived condition of the Indian healthcare system.

Gender bias in healthcare is often deeply rooted in societal attitudes and cultural norms that
perpetuate gender stereotypes. For example, the belief that women are emotional and weak, and
that their medical conditions are not as serious as those of men, can lead to a lack of recognition
and proper treatment of their medical conditions. Additionally, , a lack of diversity in healthcare
fields, such as a lack of female doctors, can contribute to gender bias in healthcare. The
likelihood of women receiving proper treatment and being taken seriously may be higher when
their medical conditions are recognized and diagnosed by female healthcare providers. Gender
difference is intimately stitched into the fabric of humanness. Medicine has assimilated and
perpetuated socially established gender distinctions at every step of its long history. These
distinctions have historically attributed male supremacy and authority. Women have historically
been treated less favourably in wealth, education, and politics. These circumstances are precisely
what have allowed modern scientific medicine to historically develop as a profession, an
organisation, and a discipline where the superiority of the male physique and masculine
supremacy were ingrained in medicine’s earliest roots.

Studies have shown that gender bias in healthcare is a real and significant problem. For example,
a study published in the Journal of Women’s Health found that women are less likely to receive

proper treatment for heart disease, with only 55% receiving the same standard of care as men.
This disparity in treatment can have serious consequences, as heart disease is the leading cause
of death for women in the United States. Men are similarly affected by gender bias in healthcare.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), 6 million men in the US have
depression each year, but only a quarter of them seek treatment. The stigma surrounding mental
health and traditional gender expectations can make it difficult for men to access the care they
need, leading to poor health outcomes.
It is also important to note that gender bias in healthcare intersects with other forms of
discrimination, such as those based on race, ethnicity, and socio-economic status. For instance, a
study by the National Academy of Sciences found that African American women are three to
four times more likely to die from pregnancy or childbirth-related causes than white women. 
The article now proceeds to explore the dynamics of gender bias engraved in the healthcare
system  by using statistics, and unfold the perspective of Indian law on the issue.
Analysing Gender Bias through the Standpoint of the Indian Law
Despite the presence of various statutes in the Indian legal system, there has been a massive
defiance on part of the healthcare institutions in society, both at the public and the private level.
Despite Article 14 of the Indian Constitution guaranteeing the right to equality and prohibiting
discrimination against any citizen based on gender, there has been inevitable evidence of absence
of such right and safeguards, regardless of it being a fundamental right.. The Protection of
Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 provides protection to women against violence,
including sexual violence, in healthcare settings. The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act,
1971 also provides protection to women by allowing them to terminate their pregnancy on
medical grounds. The Clinical Establishments (Registration and Regulation) Act, 2010 regulates
healthcare facilities and provides for the registration of clinical establishments. The act also
provides for the appointment of a Grievance Redressal Officer to handle complaints of patients,
including complaints related to gender bias in healthcare. In addition, the Indian Penal Code
(IPC) also provides for protection against sexual harassment and assault in healthcare settings.

The IPC also penalises acts of cruelty and torture, including those committed by healthcare

The aforementioned statutes are examples of the mandates present in our society through the
legal system yet ignored. Having a regulation is one thing and implementing the same is another,
therefore there exists a dire need for certain reformative steps that can effectively bridge the gap
between addressing the presence of gender bias and providing access and implementing policies
in the field. 
The Role of the Healthcare Industry in Addressing Gender Bias

The healthcare industry has a responsibility to address gender bias in healthcare and provide
equal access to medical care and services for all individuals, regardless of gender. This can be
achieved through a number of measures, including:

  1. Increasing diversity in the healthcare field: The healthcare industry can work to increase
    the number of female healthcare providers, which can help to reduce gender bias and gap
    in healthcare.
  2. Providing education and training: The healthcare industry can provide education and
    training for healthcare providers on the impact of gender bias in healthcare, and how to
    recognize and address it.
  3. Implementing anti-discrimination policies: The healthcare industry can implement anti-
    discrimination policies that prohibit discrimination based on gender and ensure that
    individuals receive equal access to medical care and services.
  4. Encouraging patient advocacy: The healthcare industry can encourage individuals to
    advocate for their rights and speak up when they experience discrimination in healthcare

The Role of the Government in Addressing Gender Bias in Healthcare

The government has a responsibility to address gender bias in healthcare and provide equal
access to medical care and services to all individuals, regardless of their gender. This can be
achieved through a number of measures, including:

  1. Enforcing anti-discrimination laws: The government can enforce anti-discrimination laws
    that prohibit discrimination based on gender in healthcare settings, and hold healthcare providers accountable for violating these laws. The government can use its regulatory and legal powers to ensure that healthcare providers do not engage in discriminatory practices that adversely affect the health outcomes of women and non-binary individuals. For instance, governments can establish regulatory bodies or task forces that oversee the implementation of anti-discrimination laws and regulations in healthcare settings. These bodies can investigate complaints of discrimination, sanction healthcare providers that violate anti-discrimination laws, and provide
    training and resources to healthcare providers on how to provide equitable care.
  2.  Providing funding for research: The government can provide funding for research to better
    understand the impact of gender bias in healthcare, and to develop effective strategies for
    addressing it.
  3. Developing and implementing national policies: The government can develop and
    implement national policies that promote equality and address gender bias in healthcare. 


When we look beyond male and female, gender prejudice in healthcare becomes even more
discriminatory. Transgender and non-binary persons experience discrimination and possess even fewer legal rights than women, even in high-income countries. A recent US survey found that over half of trans individuals were discriminated against by a healthcare provider or denied gender-affirming healthcare by their insurance. Two-thirds fear discrimination may impair their diagnoses and treatment. “Rather than adapting to shifting social standards, transgender people are routinely shoehorned into incorrect boxes”. Global issues are similar: Transgender SouthAfricans lack reproductive healthcare, according to a 2019 report. Transgender people in Kenya,
where homosexuality is illegal, lack resources and assistance. Gender bias in healthcare endangers lives. Sexism, which causes global disparity, including health inequity, includes it. Gender prejudice impacts diagnosis, treatment, and health outcomes, lowering healthcare quality. In order to bring a change, organizations and institutions must commit to modifying their policies and procedures in order to put a stop to it.

About the author

Sarah Arora is an antepenultimate year law-student pursuing B.B.A LL.B Hons. from Jindal
Global Law School. She loves to write poems and articles on issues that arouse her curiosity and inspires her to be better than yesterday.

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