Gender Issues

The concept of shyness (or modesty), or shrm, in women is thought to be feminine and thus much valued in traditional India. Consequently, older Hindu women may be soft spoken and unwilling to be asked or to answer frank questions about intimate behaviors and practices (e.g., sexual history, incontinence, bowel regimens, etc). They often prefer to be examined by same-gender health professionals, although more acculturated and younger Asian Indian women may be very similar to their Western counterparts.

Sensitive inquiry will elicit most of the patient’s preferences, and any sincere attempt to honor their preferences is greatly valued and appreciated. Having a female relative available when examining an older Hindu woman is a highly recommended practice because it facilitates a frank interaction.

As noted under Other Cultural Beliefs and Rituals, married Asian Indian women may wear a thread/gold chain with pendants and black beads around their necks (mangalsutra/ thali). These should not be removed during the exam or surgery without the married Asian Indian woman’s approval.