Sexual Health in India

Even in the United States, sexual health and education can be a very controversial topic, especially in schools. It is interesting when we think of how liberal America is when it comes to these topics, and that if it is controversial in the US, it must be extremely taboo and forbidden in conservative and traditional cultures like India. What most people don’t realize is that even though it goes against culture, doesn’t mean that sex isn’t occurring. The problem here is that people are not aware and do not engage in safe sex practices. This leads to many problems such as sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV and AIDS, as well as unplanned pregnancies and other unwanted complications.

It is not only medical doctors and researchers that are searching for ways to combat the problem of HIV in India, a country with one of the highest HIV and AIDS rates in the world today, but also anthropologists, politicians, public health workers, and economists. I found an interesting article discussing the research of two women, Helen Lambert and Kate Wood, who are studying the cause and effect of this problem in India. They are looking first at the way sex is communicated in this society, by means of private conversation and public sexual education. Next, they are looking at the way that sexual desire and intent is communicated between males and females. And lastly, they are looking at references to sexuality in terms of health and indigenous beliefs and practices custom to only India. By researching these topics, Helen and Kate will be able to find answers to the HIV problem in India. This will allow others to develop education methods that fit the culture and belief system of the Indian society, so that it is not seen as forbidden and controversial. If we can better understand their beliefs and desires, we can help them to live a healthy and happy life.



Lambert, Helen, and Kate Wood. “A Comparative Analysis of Communication about Sex, Health and Sexual Health in India and South Africa: Implications for HIV Prevention.”Culture, Health & Sexuality: An International Journal for Research, Intervention and Care7, no. 6 (2006): 527-41.

This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Anya Odabasic says:

    When considering such harsh illnesses as HIV and AIDS it can be difficult to wrap our heads around the idea that studying aspects outside of a pharmaceutical realm. Most people assume illness=lots of medications to help fix the problem. Anthropologists, including these two ladies, use plenty of methods in hopes of diminishing the occurrence of the disease.

    Specifically looking at sexual health in India, Lambert and Wood participated in observations of the culture the most. They looked into how sex was taught to the people and how it was presented to them and looked at how sexual desires were communicated. This can be a big indicator about how the culture feels about sexual interactions. If people need to keep it private, if openly speaking about it in public is fine, or even if males are the only ones allowed to initiate and show sexual desires. Wood and Lambert also mentioned that they studied how sexual feelings and acts were associated with health. Mentioned in the abstract of the paper was the idea of semen loss for the males and womb dirtiness for the females presuming that sexual acts are not highly regarded in the culture. Using these terms of thinking can make it easier to get down to the root of a host of questions. For example, if they frown upon semen loss and womb dirtiness, why is HIV so prevalent? Are there other factors that play into HIV levels such as transfer from mother during childbirth? Are sexual acts experienced in a dirty place? It helps to look past the biomedical views of an illness because medicine will only help postpone the affects and symptoms of the disease while looking into the culture and changing common, unhealthy practices could help prevent the illness.

  2. Kelly Cummins says:

    The sexual health education issues in India run feel within their cultural norms but these traditions have led to far more serious health issues within their communities. HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases run rampant through the country of India. With poor education and lack of communication about sexual health, these people do not understand the dangers that poor sexual health practices really pose.

    The women anthropologists that studied these practices in India did a great job of looking deep within the cultures of these Indian communities to discover why a lack of sexual health educations has become the norm. Instead of looking into how to cure the diseases that have become common in these communities (like a doctor would), they applied anthropology by studying how these people live and learn. They looked at some of the sexual mentalities of these people and looked at how these people communicated to each other about sex. They also looked at the male and female roles of sex in this culture and tried to understand how their general health was associated with their sexual health.

    By applying anthropology when studying this global health issue, it allows us to look at the root cause of the health issues in these communities. From here, we can better understand the culture as a whole, and more successfully fix the issues at hand.

  3. Maureen John says:

    Sexual health in India is a very touchy topic and often hard to discuss. Being raised in an Indian household, sexual health was not a topic that was ever brought up. Sex before marriage is looked down on in the Indian culture and there was a fear that if the topic was brought up it would lead to an increase in extramarital sex. The article by Helen Lambert and Kate Wood looked at communication about sexual health in India and South Africa. The anthropologists used an ethnomedical approach by focussing in on three main things. First they targeted on how and who sex was discussed or not discussed by both in public and in private conversations. Next they looked closely at how sexual desire was communicated by non verbal means. Lastly they looked at how references about sexuality and the sexual body enter conversation explicitly through just health and not sexual health. They focused on an example of loss of semen in India. Applying anthropology will contribute to a better understanding of sexual health in India because it can help open up our eyes to Indian culture and standards in their society. This in return can help us aid countries, like India, about sexual health without offending their culture and beliefs.

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