When Vaginal Practices Are Working against Health and Gender Equity: Evidence from the 2005/06 Yogyakarta Vaginal Practices Survey

Iwu D. Utomo, Australian National University
Terence H. Hull, Australian National University
Ninuk Widyantoro, Mitra Inti Indonesia
Herna Lestari, Mitra INTI Foundation (MIF)
Laily Hanifah, Mitra Inti Indonesia

The 2005/06 Yogyakarta Vaginal Practices Survey covered qualitative research and a representative sample survey (880 respondents). Vaginal practices include anything undertaken to clean, tighten and/or dry the vagina including washing (cebok), insertion of substances, or drinking traditional products (jamu); pre-marital and pregnancy-postnatal treatments and various forms of vaginal surgery. Some practices are rare, but others are common to the point of near-universal experience, especially among married women. Literature on vaginal practices suggests that many forms are harmful. Some are known to facilitate the incidence of infections. Most important is the impact of such practices on gender interactions disadvantaging women. Analysis will focus on the prevalence of vaginal practices by socio-demographic and cultural setting as well as describing the incidence of practices across the life cycle. The research found that most common practices appear benign and are motivated largely by concerns about hygiene and health.

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Presented in Session 176: Reproductive Health in Asia and Africa: Vaginal Practices as Potentially Risky Behavior