Did the Indian government really just tell pregnant women to avoid 'lustful thoughts'?

Indian officials have been criticised for advising pregnant women to stop eating meat and avoid having sex [Photo: Pexels]

India’s government has been accused of “backward thinking” by several medical experts after publishing a controversial leaflet aimed at pregnant women.

Titled ‘Mother and Child Care’, the booklet advises pregnant women in India to avoid eating meat and eggs – dietary advice which doctors are calling, “unscientific and irrational.”

But what we can’t get our heads around is the second piece of advice the leaflet offers up. It’s not just omelettes and chicken Indian mums-to-be are being asked to avoid; “impure thoughts” should also be shunned. Errr OK then.

India currently has one of the world’s highest rates of maternal mortality. In 2015, 174 of every 100,000 pregnancies in the country resulted in the mother’s death.

Compare this to the US figure of 14 in every 100,000 and you can see the problem. However we’re not convinced that avoiding impure thoughts will improve matters.

However, the dietary concerns seem to be valid.

Indian women are often the last to eat in the household, giving their portion to the men and children. This has led to 48% of children under the age of five to be ‘stunted’, meaning they will not grow to their full height or weight.

Doctors have said the leaflet will be “detrimental” to women’s health [Photo: Getty]

“This is a national shame. If the calories of expectant mothers are further reduced by asking them to shun meat and eggs, this situation will only worsen,” gynaecologist Arun Gadre told The Guardian. “This is absurd advice to be giving to pregnant women in a country like India.”

It is widely accepted that pregnant women will benefit from eating foods high in protein (e.g. meat) and can safely have sex.

India’s traditional medicine minister defended the leaflet, saying it contained “wisdom accumulated over many centuries.” He also added the government was not telling women to avoid sex; only thoughts of desire or lust.

Amit Sengupta, a physician and health care activist with the Delhi Science Forum, also attacked the booklet, adding: “Undernourished girls grow into undernourished women. Married by their families while still in their teens, these girls become pregnant by the time they are 17 or 18, when their bodies have not matured enough to safely deliver a child.”

“This kind of advice is detrimental to women’s health.”

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