Kerala women fish vendors don’t know of birds and bees

September 9th, 2012 - 7:02 pm ICT by IANS  

Thiruvananthapuram, Sep 9 (IANS) Kerala might have the highest literacy rate in the country, but a study among women fish vendors in six fishing regions in the state showed that sexuality remained a taboo topic, and discussion within families of sexuality does not happen.

This was revealed in a study commissioned by Trivandrum Social Service Society (TSSS), which works among fishing communities in Tamil Nadu and Kerala, under the title “Status study of women fish vendors”.

Of the six regions where the study was conducted, five are in the capital district, while one lies in Tamil Nadu, bordering the capital city.

According to the secretary of TSSS, Catholic priest S. Ignatius, the women in these fishing communities had been exposed to capacity building activities and awareness lessons over the years. Even so, they remain largely ignorant of different options for contraception and have poor sexual hygiene.

Menstruation is considered impure and not even discussed, so adolescent girls grow up with little knowledge of their own bodies.

“Only 24 percent of the women in the study could tell what happened to the female body during menstruation,” the priest said.

The study also found that only eight percent of the women used sanitary pads, while the rest preferred cloth.

Barely 21 percent of the women said they understood sexuality before they were married. At the Kovalam fishing region alone, which lies in and around the Kovalam tourist destination, 49 percent of the women said they had information of sexuality before marriage.

Another significant revelation was that only 34 per cent of the married respondents felt free to discuss sexual matters with their husbands.

“The women faced problems such as suspicion, forced sexual relations, and the disinterest of husbands in sex as alcohol consumption among the men is high. Only 20 percent of the women had ever attempted to seek help for sexual problems,” the study noted.

When it came to adoption of family planning methods, it surfaced that this was the responsibility of women alone; a good 76 percent of women had undergone tubectomy, while the menfolk who underwent vasectomy was just two percent.

Another highlight was that while 64 percent of the women had experienced domestic violence, 38 percent believed that a husband had the right to beat his wife.

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