Welcome back to This is India! I always have funny/weird stories about India to share with friends or family when I talk to them. This is just meant to be an honest portrayal of my life in India through short anecdotes. I also share here what I’ve been up to online outside Hippie in Heels.
What I was up to other than here:
- Um, so I wrote a guide book! It’s a 169-page insider’s guide to Goa. You can buy it here!
- I ate like a little piggie in the US, and haven’t worked out since February so I googled “gentle ab exercise” because I’m lazy and actually found one I really like so have been doing it 3x per week. It’s Denise Austin which is amazing because it’s so old school.
- I read Norwegian at Night and hated it (sorry if you love it!) and now I’m reading The Kill Room which so far I don’t love… so having some bad luck there.
- Taking a two-week vacation from India to go see Ben’s family in Kent. We’ll also go to St. Ives while in the UK. My BFF from school is coming to visit and finally meet Ben while we are in his hometown. Later, she and I are going to go to Dublin for a few days. So, just a two-week trip then back to Goa.
- Are you guys on Pepo? I’ve been running my channel on there for almost a year now and have been doing live Q&A’s and sharing videos from my travels.
- Be sure to look out for my 4-year blogging anniversary post because I’m doing a giveaway and there is a reader survey on there.
- If you’ve ever wanted to see tigers in India, then you have got to look into these tours my friend and fellow blogger, Mariellen, is running. The dates are March 21-April 2. I’ve been in India so long an NEVER seen a tiger so even I want to go on this tour (but will be away at that time!). All the prices are in the link. The places you will stay look really nice and she’s also going to answer any blogging questions you might have.
Now your story,
With the combination of women not always being treated equally in India and lack of health care in many rural areas of India (and in the urban areas for many people who can’t afford it), I bet you can imagine that women’s reproductive health can be overlooked in some cases.
The first time I went out to find birth control pills here when I moved here years ago, I tried a few different chemists because I wasn’t familiar with the area.
Ben was waiting in the car after I went into one, and I came out totally confused like “Ben, you won’t believe what they said to me! They tried to give me an “abortion pill” (their words) which is the morning after pill and told me to take it whenever I needed!”
So, in case you don’t know they say you should only take the morning after pill twice in your whole life! It’s not the same as birth control in the slightest. So, eventually, I found out that Union pharmacy in Mapusa has Yaz (and only Yaz) and I started buying it 3 months at a time in case they ran out. Many chemists in India will not have oral contraceptive.
Actually, there was a reader two years ago in McLeod Ganj totally panicked because she thought she could get it here and had run out only to learn that no chemist there had it. I bought her a three month supply and mailed it to her from Goa.
I keep seeing ads for a new birth control pill coming out though, and its name is ridiculous: “unwanted”.
Talk about making a woman feel guilty for preventing pregnancy!? You can guess condom ads are not the same vibe.
In India, there are many sad instances of women getting abortions because of pressure from their family when they find out they are having a girl – OR – not knowing it’s a girl, giving birth, and killing it. Most recently, I read of someone burying a baby girl alive in the dirt by a train track. This has a lot to do with dowry and the cost of raising a girl with no ROI for the family. It’s such an issue that in India it’s been made illegal to get ultrasounds and find out the sex of the baby. A lot of the stories you hear about this, in the news, the woman was forced into an abortion by her husband or in-laws. It’s all very upsetting but is the norm in some areas of India unfortunately.
Another thing to consider is that women get their periods every month (shocker). The government decided to tax sanitary napkins and tampons (which are already so expensive here) 12%. It’s essentially a “luxury tax” which is not added to contraception and condoms. As if periods could be avoided? But, as you can imagine there are so many poor areas of India where there is hardly money to eat let alone buy expensive pads – instead, they use anything from cloths to cactus leaves, sawdust… and even “sand filled old socks“.
Only 12% of women in India use sanitary pads or tampons
“Women who do use cloths are often too embarrassed to dry them in the sun, which means they don’t get disinfected. Approximately 70% of all reproductive diseases in India are caused by poor menstrual hygiene – it can also affect maternal mortality.” – BBC
If you watch documentaries about women’s lives in the poor sectors of India, you can hear testimonials of girls who say that they had nothing to use and therefore could not go to school for the week. Their missing learning was not important. At one school where girls were using the sand so that they could still come learn, there were 42 girls who had vaginal infections from this.
It’s a mixture of not knowing how to take care of the “problem”, women being shamed for bleeding (even by their mothers according to the documentaries I’ve seen), and also not having the money to deal with it even if they do know what they should do.
So, if you’re reading this where you can have baby girls in happiness and put in a tampon as soon as you start your period, and pop a pill so you don’t get pregnant, then you’re in the lucky bunch!
This isn’t an issue in just India, if you look this up in many countries who are developing or third world, you’ll see similar trends. So, is there hope? Back in 2014, it was huge news that a man had solved the issue!
He saw his wife hiding a dirty cloth that he “would not have used to clean his scooter” and then realized it was what she used to keep clean during menstruation. Later that week he invented his own sanitary pad because they couldn’t afford one and he wanted her to try it, only to be shocked to learn she bleed monthly and he’d have to wait for her next period.
His invention worked and he had to test it on himself by creating a fake uterus that “bled” since no one would try it. His family was so embarrassed they almost kicked him out. He was the laughing stock of the town and they thought he was possessed by evil spirits. Check out the story to see what happened, it’s pretty interesting!
So, just some food for thought about what goes on here when it comes to periods!
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Wow what a great reminder about how forward thinking we are in the US even if we still have ground to cover on these issues
Wow, did my comments on the advertising post inspire this? :)
Hey, Anne! Possibly! lol like you said that “unwanted” is straight to the point isn’t it!? haha!
What documentaries are these?
Oh gosh, don’t know offhand – most likely ones I’ve come across on Netflix!
Rachel, I love reading your blog, you write so well! By the way, this man’s story has now got the Bollywood treatment. One film titled ‘Phullu’ has already been released and another one titled ‘Padman’ is currently in production.
Oh really!?!?! That’s so amazing, I will have to search the one that’s already out.