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[ Recorded presentation ] Recorded presentation

“Good girls are quiet”: Gender norms and adolescent reproductive health in India

Suneeta Krishnan, PhD1, Diana M. Measham, MSc, (DrPH)1, Rohini Pande, ScD2, T. Pradeep3, Nancy S. Padian, PhD4, and Anupama Tantri, MHS5. (1) Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology, & Reproductive Sciences, University of California, San Francisco, 74 New Montgomery, Suite 600, San Francisco, CA 94609, (415) 597-4969, skrishnan@vsnl.net, (2) Social Demographer, Population and Social Transitions, International Center for Research on Women (ICRW), 1717 Massachusetts Ave., N.W., Suite 302, Washington, DC 20036, (3) Samuha, 268 1st Main, Defence Colony, HAL IInd Stage, Indiranagar, Bangalore, 560038, India, (4) ARI, Dept OB/GYN, UCSF, Box 0886, 74 New Montgomery, Suite 600, San Francisco, CA 94105, (5) Department of Ob/Gyn and Reproductive Sciences, University of California, San Francisco, 74 New Montgomery # 600, San Fancisco, CA 94122

In India, adolescent girls, married and unmarried, lack basic knowledge about reproductive health and HIV. Gender inequalities affect their capacity to influence when, where, and how sexual relations occur, rendering them vulnerable to coerced or unwanted sex, and placing them at high risk for adverse reproductive health outcomes. We conducted formative research on how gender norms shape adolescent girls’ psychosocial resources and reproductive health in order to design an intervention promoting their reproductive health. Research was conducted in urban low-income communities in Bangalore and rural communities in Koppal District, Karnataka State, India between November 2002 and June 2003. Using qualitative research methods including participant observation, in-depth interviewing, and focus group discussions, we collected data from adolescent girls, 11 to 19 years (unmarried and married), their parents, adolescent boys, and key informants, including community leaders, health care providers and teachers. Discussions with girls, parents and key informants revealed deeply entrenched ideas and values regarding gender roles and relations. “Good” girls were described as those who are quiet; do not challenge the status quo; and maintain their personal and family honor. Parents and the wider community enforced these norms, resulting in restrictions on mobility; curtailment of girls’ education; and young age at marriage and motherhood. These in turn limited girls’ access to psychosocial support networks and further reinforced girls’ low self-esteem and self-confidence. Girls’ and mothers’ narratives suggested that these factors increased girls’ vulnerability to coerced sex (both within and outside marriage), unplanned/early pregnancy, and sexually transmitted diseases. A Samuha-UCSF Adolescent Livelihoods project.

Learning Objectives:

Keywords: Adolescents, International, Reproductive Health

Presenting author's disclosure statement:
I do not have any significant financial interest/arrangement or affiliation with any organization/institution whose products or services are being discussed in this session.

[ Recorded presentation ] Recorded presentation

Factors that Affect Sexual and Reproductive Health of Young People, and How to Address them

The 132nd Annual Meeting (November 6-10, 2004) of APHA