Sunday, August 26, 2012

Talk "that" Talk

What does "women's intimate health" refer to? The first thing that comes to the mind is probably menstruation. But that is not the end to it. I believe the phrase refers to the entire female sexual health and the awareness regarding it.

As a kid, I was always curious as to why all kinds of foul words had references to women even though no woman was remotely concerned to the issue. I suppose it was because of the unawareness amongst the entire female sex regarding the amount of insult and disrespect meted out to them. Or maybe, it was because we were ignorant of the fact that we too have a voice which can be raised.

The issue of women's intimate health is a very similar concept. The various myths and embarrassment associated with it, the uncomfortable interactions between the opposite sexes regarding the concept are important reasons for the widespread ignorance.

Your body is your only home and it is the only thing that you exclusively have for yourself and the knowledge of its functioning and processes is of enormous importance. If you are not aware of how your body changes as you undergo puberty or menopause, the way your body behaves throughout you entire reproductive cycle, then who else will? If you do not know what and when things go wrong or if there is at all a problem, is it possible to find a solution to it? This is not a very small issue and doesn't concern just one woman or two; there is a larger picture to this. If you are not comfortable and proud of your own body, is your empowerment ever possible? The whole concept of women's empowerment comes down to just an idea and can never be achieved if women keep thinking that they are not "pure" just because they are menstruating.

The age old myths which are passed from generation to generation is one big reason here. Women are told that they are not to talk or even go in front of the male members of the house, keep to one room, not to go near the place of worship, not to touch pickles and other preserved food, not to eat this, not to have fun during their menstrual cycle. The list of DO NOTs doesn't end just there. The situation gets even worse in the rural areas where women are even confined and kept away from all the other members of the house, locked in animal sheds and close to toilets. The whole thing is not just inhuman but it is also extremely unhygienic. It is highly shocking that only a paltry 7% of the entire female population in our country uses sanitary napkins during their cycles and the remaining bulk i.e. 93% uses other unhygienic things like cloths and sometimes rags, dry leaves, straw, paper and at times just nothing!!  The chances of having various kinds of infections and other reproductive and urogenital tract related diseases are extremely high in such situations.

The awareness and knowledge of the female reproductive system is very less amongst us, especially we Indians. Living is a patriarchal society, the uncomfortable shifting and looks during sanitary napkin advertisements on TV is a common sight in almost all homes. What is important in these situations is that all the family members in the house are properly aware, sympathetic and understanding and the women in the family should know that they are to be proud of their body and not ashamed of it. By that I do not mean that the women should go about announcing about the arrival of their cycles to the world, it is necessary that the myths are busted and it is to be understood that it is an absolutely "normal" procedure and you are not "impure" because it is God itself who has made you like this and the whole procedure of menstruation is an integral part of the entire reproductive and hence, the living cycle. And it is NOT blasphemy if you worship when you are menstruating.

The problem can be handled (if not entirely solved) in certain ways-
1) There should be open discussions regarding the subject including both boys and girls at the school level. If sex education can be made compulsory at school level, reproductive health should also be included in the syllabus. Pre-pubescent girls are to be told how they can handle the changes when they arrive and who to seek help from in case of any emergencies.
2) Hygiene camps (similar to medical camps) should be conducted in the rural regions where men and women should be imparted the knowledge and truths on the subject and how ignorance regarding it can affect the well being of their family and its members.
3) The NSS and other social groups in colleges should encourage students to take active part in discussions and be open-minded about the subject. The youth should be made aware of the big picture and how ignorance regarding the reproductive health can affect them in the future. If you know anything, come share your knowledge. If you do not know anything, come and ask and get your questions correctly answered from experts. The awkwardness between the sexes in the contemporary youth is comparatively less from the previous generations. These gatherings can be very beneficial as young people are more comfortable discussing these issues with their peers than their elders. So if some youths know, the knowledge will be passed on to more.
4) It is to be understood that this is a medical related issue and not a personal one. Like any other disease or disorder, sexual problems are to be cured. It should not be embarrassing to consult your gynecologist if you have any problems. Women should understand that a doctor is foremost a doctor and knows more than you about the problem and the gender of the doctor should not matter here. You should be completely honest and not ashamed of discussing your problems if the gynecologist is a male doctor.

We have kept the topic of sexual health comfortably shoved under our rugs and maintained a hush hush about it till now. It is high time we open up and discuss about it freely with out embarrassment and shame. It is time the wall of awkwardness comes down and we are more comfortable being ourselves.

This post is a part of the weekend blogging contest at in association with


  1. Excellent post, Swarnali!! When you think of your body as the only thing you'll ever own exclusively, you realise the immense potential in your hands. This was a very good read, thank you for posting!

  2. Dear Swarnali,
    Not too sure I belong on this post, but you raise some valid points. Nicely expressed. Good luck with the competition! Thanks for sharing.

    If you have time, do come join this month's Lovers' Cove Challenge currently ongoing over at my blog. Crystal, Elen & Radwa have turned it into a party (lol). Hope you can make it!

  3. Hmm indeed very true and I am glad this contest or topic has come out and I have read a lot of good articles have come out,

    indeed walking the talk is a big thing and talking is a must because I feel that if we dont talk things are ignored , at lest when people talk , other people talk things come out and a lot of myths and false thoughts get answered ..

    Good one


    1. We surely do need talking because the number of myths that envelop our thoughts and beliefs are numerous and its high time we bust them. Thanks a bunch :)

  4. as a woman who is very forward and knowledgeable about health and intimate health....i would say this - 18 again is a vagina tightening product...aimed at heighted sexual pleasure for MEN.....really all the other stuff they are talking about is like sugar coating and nicely paper wrapping it :)

    1. I agree but the facts they presented are really shocking :)

  5. but, yes good luck for the competition gal! :)

  6. Well-written. And that 7% count is new and shocking for me. All the best for your competition.

    village girl

    1. I too was really shocked when I saw the video...thanks :)


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