Prof. Sawitri Saharso receives grant for research project ‘When culture meets gender in the consultation room’

Professor at the department of Sociology Sawitri Saharso receives a grant for the project ‘When culture meets gender in the consultation room: GPs’ and migrant women’s dilemmas around harmful cultural practices’. The grant is awarded by NWO in the Open Competition.

05/12/2021 | 4:21 PM

Prof Sawitri Saharso

This project studies general practitioners (GPs) and migrant women’s moral perspectives and dilemmas regarding medical intervention related to harmful cultural practices (HCPs). These are cultural practices that harm the rights and well-being of a person, because of that person’s gender. An example is virginity testing. GPs have to advise the women and decide on intervention.

While the dilemmas regarding HCPs of the GPs and the women, we suspect, center around autonomy, current theorizing of HCPs addresses the issue predominantly as a problem of tolerance and thus offers little guidance. Moreover, the moral voices of the women concerned are largely ignored. We assume that women experiencing HCPs are no cultural dupes, but negotiate cultural constraints. 

Quality improvement of healthcare for women 

Based on surveys and qualitative research among migrant women and GPs, we will compare their moral perspectives and decision-making on HCPs and medical intervention and integrate these in a novel gender and culture sensitive ethical framework that addresses their moral dilemmas. The project will search for commonalities and differences with other groups of vulnerable patients. 

The theoretical objective is to develop an empirically grounded ethical framework based on a new theoretical conception of autonomy under coercive conditions and thus go beyond the state of the art in both feminist ethics and bioethics. The societal objective is to improve the quality of healthcare for the women concerned and stimulate debate among health practitioners and migrant women about HCPs, gender and (sexual) health. Therefore, tools for medical education and for grassroots migrant women’s organizations will be developed.

NWO Open Competition

The grant is awarded by Nederlandse Organisatie voor Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek (NWO) in the Open Competition. Goal of this grant is to give researchers the opportunity to do research on a topic of their own choice, without thematic preconditions. The funding instrument is intended for senior researchers who can no longer apply for a Veni, Vidi or Vici. It allows prof. Saharso in the coming three years to carry out this research together with two postdoc researchers. 

Academic collaborators are the Amsterdam UMC-VUmc GP specialty training, the Department of Medical Humanities Amsterdam UMC-VUmc and RHEA, Knowledge Centre Gender, Diversity and Intersectionality, Free University Brussels. The societal partners of this project include Pharos, the Dutch National Center Health Disparities and Focal Point Female Genital Mutilation, Himilo, a Somali grassroots organization, Nisa for Nisa, a migrant (MENA)women’s grassroots organization, Doctors of the World, a movement working to empower excluded people to access healthcare and Movisie, Dutch national knowledge institute on social issues, Team family violence and sexual violence.