We have seen the vigorous awareness campaigns across the United Kingdoms encouraging and inviting women to #SmearForSmear. The adverts are endorsed by celebrities and the community alike. Conversely.. not many of these public figures adequately represent the BAME community, and that is no bodies fault. It’s a sign that these campaigns will never get close to penetrating the bubble around this community.

Awareness in ethnic community, particularly those who do not live in the United Kingdom is so negligible that many women are not only unaware but also ignorant of the preventive options available. If pre-cancer is detected early it can be treated. Thus, very few women will take preventative measures.

An unwillingness to speak about cervical cancer is, in part influenced by our cultural predisposition to stigmatise discussions on the sexual, gynaecological and reproductive health of women. In turn this perpetuates a culture of silence around the disease.

Luckily women in the United Kingdom are more able to openly talk aboit these issues. This is in stark contrast to counties such as India, where discussing such topics is largely taboo, particularly for unmarried women. Why? Because it is immediately assumed to imply that they are engaging in premarital sex. The misogyny and attitudes to women are a big part in lack of knowledge, awareness and perpetuates the cultural of fear. Whether it is fear of physical pain of a smear test, accusations of promiscuousity or the being ostracized by the community.

Interesting premarital sex does occur in most countries, this is an issue which relates to a much wider group. There is a real need to build awareness and openly discuss the importance of sexual, gynaecological and reproductive health and it is not confined to a small group of females engaging in “inappropriate behaviour”.

Some religious groups believe cancer was the will of God. A study by Box (1998) aimed to seek the views and experiences of black and minority ethnic (BME) women on smear test screening for cervical cancer. The findings showed attitudes and beliefs about cervical cancer were linked with promiscuity and seen as a punishment from God. Therefore for some ethnic minority women there is a chance of being culturally and religiously stigmatised as a result of the belief that cervical screening is only appropriate for those who are promiscuous.

Changing people’s behaviour based on their cultural beliefs and religion is no easy task. However we should not abandon those women. Instead work collaboratively with organisations such as Cysters, who have slowly won the trust of these women, we have lived experiences and understand the social norms and values.

To increase the uptake of cervical screening amongst ethnic minority groups remains a complex discuss.
But one with light at the end of the tunnel if we can work together.

Love your Cyster

Neelam x

Cysters – Women’s Support and Awareness group
“Because the journey is easier with your sisters”
Twitter: @cystersgroup
Facebook: Cysters – Women’s Support and Awareness group