Girls who have been told about taboos on menstruation reported greater stress about it, according to a research thesis by a scholar at the Indian Institute of Technology, Gandhingar (IITGN).
“Boys curbed their curiosity about the topic, while girls faced resistance to share their experience and seek treatment for menstrual illnesses… more boys avoided such questions, while fewer tribal than rural girls were told about severe taboos,” the research, Social Determinants of Menstrual Health: A Mixed-Methods Study among Indian Adolescent Girls and Boys, by Mukta Gundi from Humanities and Social Science discipline, with advisor Prof Malavika Subraman-yam as advisor, revealed.
Gundi, who did her masters from Indiana University Bloomington, USA which is a public research university was awarded her doctorate by IITGN on August 23.
Published in PLOS One, a peer-reviewed open access international scientific journal published by the Public Library of Science, the purpose of the study was to address the knowledge gap in understanding menstruation by boys and girls and identifying other health-related outcomes.
The social determinants of menstrual communication were studied through semi-structured interviews of 21 boys and girls each, 12 key-respondent interviews, followed by a cross-sectional survey of 1,421 adolescents from Nashik district, Maharashtra spread across a period of over one and a half years.
“This study was carried out in Nashik district, which has the fourth highest tribal population in the state. It is known for its high Human Development Index, while having inlands which are some of the poorest in the state,” Mukta Gundi said.
The research further revealed that many boys curbed their curiosity due to an unsaid understanding in the family about “what not to talk” and girls narrated instances when they used euphemism to communicate, using phrases such as “aunty has arrived”. Female teachers from urban schools pointed out that although both men and women feel awkward to talk about this topic.
“We (female teachers) were taking a health education class for adolescent students in our school. As soon as we started talking about menstruation, all male teachers left the room silently and locked the door from outside,” said a female teacher from an urban school.
No girls, with an exception of a few from wealthy educated urban families, reported a healthy discussion on the topic or participation of men. Couple of girls from disadvantaged backgrounds were told to accept menstrual illness as “a natural consequence of periods”, belittling their effort to communicate their symptoms.
The study also talked about how boys from all socioeconomic settings were largely excluded from menstruation-related discussion within families and in schools.
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