Marayoor (Kerala): It's been a while since tribal Adivasi women and girls in three
villages of Kerala's Idukki district have menstruated. Reason?
They have been popping contraceptive pills to avoid the
inconvenience of those few days, say people from the area.
As a result - the practice begins from the time girls start
menstruating - many have stopped conceiving in the villages of
Marayoor, Vattavada and Kanthaloor, say activists. Idukki is
around 300 km from state capital Thiruvananthapuram.
Idukki Lok Sabha member P.T. Thomas said he was shocked to hear
about this phenomenon and, upon inquiring into it, found it to be
"According to Adivasi customs, on the days of menstruation the
women have to stay away from their homes and remain for at least
three days at a separate place called Valapurai. Since the
facilities at these Valapurai are not good, they have found an
easy way out - popping a pill and not menstruating," Thomas told
Helping the women not to menstruate is Mala-D, an oral
contraceptive pill produced by the central public sector Hindustan
Shops in these three villages have apparently been making a
killing selling Mala-D and that too at an exorbitant price.
Usha Henry, the village council president at Marayoor, told IANS
this has become a serious issue and they were running awareness
campaigns against the ill effects of the practice.
"The sad part is girls start having this oral contraceptive right
from the time they start to menstruate. And even sadder is the
fact that it is the men folk who buy Mala-D and give it to the
women," said Henry.
According to the traditions of these Adivasis, at least for three
days during the menstruation period they have to stay in the
Valapurai and during those days they are not supposed to see the
face of any men.
"It has also been found that there are many women here who fail to
conceive even after several years of marriage because they have
been taking oral contraceptives. This is a serious social issue,"
Around 29 percent of the population in these three villages are
Adivasis - approximately 2,000 in each - mostly belonging to the
Muthuvan tribes. They are engaged in farming activities.
Pankajam, a health worker at Marayoor Health Centre, said it is
absolutely correct that these women take oral contraceptives to
"We do conduct health camps, conduct stage shows to educate them
about why they should stop this. But one problem is that with the
Tamil Nadu border quite close to these villages, if they don't get
the contraceptive from shops here, then there are agents who
supply it from there," said Pankajam.
She said several women in these villages were finding it difficult
"When we tell them about the ill-effects, they reply that the
conditions at the Valapurais are appalling, leaving them with
little choice," said Pankajam.
Efforts are on to improve the Valapurai facilities.
Thomas said: "It was only last week that I opened two Valapurai
under the Kanthaloor village council. We used funds from the
National Rural Health Mission. I have also spoken to the drugs
controller to see that immediate steps are taken to see that they
raid shops selling the contraceptive. We have also begun a serious
awareness campaign among the Adivasis to see that they desist from
taking this oral contraceptive."
Kanthaloor village council president Madhavan is worried.
"It's now become a trend among the Adivasi community. For them, it
is like chewing bubble gum. The sad thing is the strip with the
oral contraceptive contains iron tablets as well, but they throw
"We have decided in our council meeting to see that we come out
with proper controls to stop the practice. Another major problem
is this community is hugely secretive. We are going to come out
with a massive awareness campaign because if this continues, an
entire tribe could vanish forever," said Madhavan.
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