Over the last decade, women are massively giving birth in hospitals in India. This rapid change is particularly salient in the state of Rajasthan. While only 29% of the women used to deliver in hospitals place in 2005-06, nowadays the rate has reached 84%. Against this backdrop, I aim to explore the political implications as well as the social challenges of the institutionalisation of childbirth. To do so, I will rely on data of a public obstetrics hospitals as well as data collected in slums of Jaipur (Rajasthan) where I have conducted fieldwork for my doctoral dissertation in 2011-12.
In the first part of my presentation, I will explain how reproductive health constitutes a growing subject of concern in India. It is worth mentioning that, in addition to the high maternal and infant mortality rates—which the central government has been actively trying to curtail since 2005— India is facing significant demographic growth, a political instrumentalization of the fertility rate differences of Hindus compared to Muslims and a persistent imbalance of the child sex-ratio (919 girls for 1000 boys). The second part of my presentation will focus on the unintended consequences of the institutionalization of childbirth. I argue that while the institutionalization of reproductive health is often presented in the guise of progress and the national interest, it actually reinforces social disparities within Indian society.