We live in a world where gender has a direct impact on our lifestyles. Gender difference dictates almost every aspect of our lives and the healthcare system is no different. Women in India live 2.7 years longer than men on average but the difference in healthy life expectancy between the two is just 0.1 years which indicates that women do not necessarily live a healthier lifestyle than men. This disparity, according to experts, is due to the lack of bodily autonomy and lack of resources that affect women’s health. Social Norms and stigma around women’s intimate health also play an important role in creating the gender gap.
India’s ranking has slipped from 112 to 140 in terms of the gender gap since 2019. This translates to worse healthcare conditions for marginalized women. Menstrual illiteracy creates an array of misconceptions about women’s reproductive health which then results in a lack of discourse around women’s intimate wellness. Cramping during periods is one of the most problems, 70% of Indian women suffer from it but it’s an issue that is neglected in most households. Cramps are something that most women suffer from but there are little to no solutions around it.
Severe cramping is often a symptom of a bigger problem. It could be an indication of Endometriosis, Ovarian Cysts, or even Pelvic Inflammatory disease. Most women do not even have the resources to address this problem and the taboo around menstruation makes it even more difficult for them to express their discomfort. The stigma overpowers the discomfort that we go through. Menstrual cramps also have a direct impact on women’s physiological as well as mental health.
Another intimate issue that women face which is considered almost blasphemous to even mention is the orgasm gap. Heterosexual women are the demographic that experience the least orgasms during sex, according to a study. 70% of women in India do not orgasm while having intercourse and a lot of it has to do with our lack of knowledge of the female anatomy. This lack of knowledge also comes from a deep-seated taboo around sex. Women are constantly told not to talk about sex or pleasure.
The lack of any concrete statistics on female sexuality makes it even more difficult to bring this discourse into the public eye. Issues like vaginal dryness and vaginal irritation are not talked about because of the sense of awkwardness associated with feminine intimacy issues. Women are not ready to talk about their even to professionals and that reflects on how our society deals with sexuality. Words like vulva, clitoris are considered as dirty words and that’s a part of the big problem around female sexuality. The stigmatization and taboos may not let us talk about feminine intimacy and wellness but it doesn’t make any of these health problems any less severe. We need to move beyond our hesitations and tackle these issues head-on.