Handbook on Gender and Health
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Handbook on Gender and Health

Edited by Jasmine Gideon

This Handbook brings together a groundbreaking collection of chapters that uses a gender lens to explore health, healthcare and health policy in both the Global South and North. Empirical evidence is drawn from a variety of different settings and points to the many ways in which the gendered dimensions of health have become reworked across the globe.
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Chapter 21: Reproductive health care and indigenous peoples in Venezuela

Johanna Gonçalves Martín


In this chapter the author contrasts two different ways of understanding and of practicing reproduction by health professionals and by indigenous Yanomami people in Venezuela. Based on medical and ethnographic work in the Upper Orinoco and health system in Venezuela in 2003_2006 and 2009_2011, she presents the ideologies, cosmologies or theories which underlie the making of children for the Yanomami, and standard programmes of reproductive health care for the doctors. To fully understand the equivocations, and especially the troubling experiences of women when they access certain hospital-based services, it is necessary to consider some fundamental principles of the health system in Venezuela. The author describes the historical development of an approach to health that considers both gender and indigeneity, including the contradictions that have emerged at different points. It is of crucial importance to consider that while for doctors reproduction is neatly set apart into a field of conception, pregnancy, childbirth, and reproductive organs and their illnesses, and on a biological understanding of life, for the Yanomami reproduction concerns an animistic understanding of life, in which fertility is a fundamental aspect of well-being and a product of a careful management of inter-species relations in a life-ecology. The author proposes a reflection on other models of reproductive care, and ends the chapter with a call for more aware and engaged forms of interculturality in the context of care.

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