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Restrictive cultural norms pose reproductive health hazards for women and girls in Kenya

Female panties hanging out to dry in bathroom inside the house a practice that health officers do not recommend as it is a breeding ground for bacteria which infect women and girls affecting their well being. Photo by Joseph Kamolo/KNA.
The  Clothes hanging to dry in a urban residential area. No sight of female inner wear while it’s okay to hang out mens inner wear to dry out in both urban and rural areas in Kenya. Photo by Joseph Kamolo/KNA.

In  Kenya, most women and girls struggle to dry their inner wear in the open due to a culture that restrict the practice, terming it a taboo to see female inner clothing, including bras, bikers and panties, drying in the open.

At homes, rented residential, schools, colleges and at camping sites, you hardly spot female inner wears drying in the open due to this practice that has infiltrated the minds of many.

The practice has led to many women and girls voluntarily abiding by these unscripted rules and sometimes being forced by their parents, guardians, peers, neighbors and the community to be observed.

This culture of hiding women wears to dry has burdened females with genital infections for ages leading to deadly diseases and bacterial infections.

The seclusion has created a conducive environment for bacteria and other disease causing microorganisms to flourish and thrive on these critical pieces of clothing.

While it’s okay to hang a men’s inner wear in the open to dry, women have been confined to hiding under wears in compromising corners to dry.

Some of these practices have led to broken homes in the suspicion of a cheating spouse when the infections start exhibiting including itching genitalia, discharges, inflammations, pain while going on nature calls among others.

Maybe it’s time restrictive communities let loose this gender stereotyping and allow women to hang their inner wears to dry in the common cloth lines and dropped the culture that stereotype women wears to drying in the open as a taboo.

While some cultural practices have brought tremendous positive contributions to the society, some have risked the health statuses of our mothers and daughters for ages.

Future generations rely on women for continuity but there is risk in women who remain restricted to cultural norms that infringe on their rights to safe reproductive health.

The punitive actions have been propagated by both men and women who stick to what they found being practiced than questioning the rationale and possible implications.

Information officer’s reports from most hospitals estimates, reveals increased numbers of cases of bacterial infection for women who report at the facilities when they experience unusual feelings or observations in or around their reproductive system.

A leading gynecology, Dr. Sam Kyalo, at the Kenyatta National Hospital, advises his clients not to shy away from doing what is right such as hanging their underwear out to dry in the open than hiding at some corner in the house, bathroom or bedroom.

The gynecologist affirms that as opposed to men, women reproductive system is vulnerable to infections but it is self-redeeming due to body chemicals that are produced as reflex to counter infections.

Though in control, recurrent infections from improperly dried infected inner wears can overwhelm the reflex response to infections, leading to severe diseases which need doctor’s attention and medication.

While some women have managed to drop this yoke of gender based stereotypes, many continue to suffer as slaves of the system of stereotypes.

Supporters argue that the women and girls are the reserve of human dignity, secrecy, morality, behavior and character of the society. Therefore, exposing their reproductive wears is a breach of their moral code.

In a survey to ascertain the practice of hanging out female inner wears to dry on clothe lines, female panties are the least to find.

The survey is rather a complicated one since not many women are ready to open up about their Victoria secrets.

The few the KNA managed to interview are for the opinion that the woman has a moral police person of the society should observe the highest form of self-respect including, hiding her inner wears.

They say exposing women inner wear is letting out your sex life in the open. It also emerged that some girls and women hide these inner wears to avoid shame because they are torn, worn out, dirty, old or some with permanent blood stains from periods if not properly washed over time something they are not ready to be ridiculed for.

As to why men are at freedom to hang their inner wears doesn’t qualify the same as women, am met with the question why does most mad men walk naked while women are clothed by unknown passerby’s witnesses soon as she drops her clothes.

As the world commemorate International Women’s Day, there is need for deconstruction of restrictive and punitive practices that confine women and girls to a corner where they can hardly free themselves from reproductive health diseases and complications.

Strong healthy women make for a strong healthy future since when a woman succeeds, we all succeed.

By  Joseph Kamolo

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