Kerala's pill-popping tribals don't menstruate anymore

In a bid to avoid staying at Valapurai (an isolated place) on the days of menstruation, adivasi women consume oral contraceptive pills so that they don't menstruate at all

It's been a while since tribal Adivasi women and girls in three villages of Idukki district have menstruated. Reason? They have been popping contraceptive pills to avoid the inconvenience of those few days.

As a result of the practice that begins from the time girls start menstruating, many have stopped conceiving in the villages of Marayoor, Vattavada and Kanthaloor, say activists.

Moolah matters: Local shops have been making a killing selling Mala-D
and that too at an exorbitant price. Representation pic

PT Thomas, Member of Parliament from Idukki, said he was shocked to hear about this phenomenon and, upon inquiring into it, found it to be true.

"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 said.

Thomas maintained that efforts are on to improve the Valapurai facilities. He said, "It was only last week that I opened two Valapurai under the Kanthaloor village council."

The culprit
Helping the women not to menstruate is Mala-D, an oral contraceptive pill produced by the central public sector Hindustan Latex Limited. Shops in these three villages have apparently been making a killing selling Mala-D and that too at an exorbitant price.

Kanthaloor village council president Madhavan said, "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 that away." Madhavan added that they have decided in their council meeting to see that they 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.
Around 29 per cent of the total population in these three villages is of Adivasis -- approximately 2,000 in each -- mostly belonging to the Muthuvan tribes.

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