Welcome to India, a diverse and culturally rich country where we can openly talk and express our views freely about any and everything except things like sex, menstruation, birth control and the issues associated to them. Yes, it’s a matter of great pity that even in the 21st century when we have progressed so much and have outgrown the boundaries of all sectors of development; sex and related issues are still a very big taboo in our country. We keep running away from healthy discussions and talks about all these absolutely natural and inevitable processes that sustain life. With a population of 1.25 billion, running in circles to escape the reality is just doing more harm than any good.
Recently we observed the World AIDS Day, a day dedicated to spread awareness about one of the most common sexually transmitted disease- AIDS. The day saw a lot of people; students, youngsters and social servants taking to various platforms to spread awareness about the importance of safe sex and how to promote sexual hygiene. The most common way to practice safe sex is the use of condoms. But again in a country like India, even buying condoms is one hell of a task. Surviving the weird and the most awkward stares by every single person in and around the medical store, the moment you ask for a “condom” in the most timidest voice ever, is nothing less than launching a mission to mars, isn’t it!?
The main problem is that people relate condoms with sex and not with safe sex. In a country where people shy away from talking about sex openly, health and safety factors associated to it are still farfetched things. The mentality has to change, the mentality of keeping ‘things’ within the four walls will lead you nowhere, well nowhere except for a tsunami of population and few common diseases like cold, cough, and AIDS.
But even though it gets awkward at times, it should never stop one from buying condoms and using them everytime he/she has sex in order to ensure safety and avoid unwanted pregnancies. Another way to avoid unwanted pregnancies is the use of birth control pills or contraceptive pills as we might call them. Birth control pills are oral hormones that control your menstrual cycle and are your big time saviours letting you have sex without creating humans out of it. But contraceptive pills are not just used to avoid unwanted pregnancies but also help with the symptoms of many hormonal syndromes in women like PCOS and endometriosis. So ladies, when your reproductive health is at stake, remember those little contraceptive pills are your tiny soldiers always there for your rescue.
Another huge taboo in India that atleast all women are totally sick of, is menstruation. The lack of awareness among young girls in mostly small towns is a matter of pity, as menstrual unhygiene and issues associated to it leads them to infections that in worse case scenarios even prove to be fatal. In India we don’t have a culture of “The talk”, yes the prep talk, neither for sex nor for menstruation. But as responsible parents it’s an essential part of their parental duty to prepare their young girls to face periods and everything about menstrual hygiene, maintaining a lifestyle that is good for her reproductive health. Our Indian society has been barbaric towards menstruation since a long time now. A girl when on her period is expected to not go near anything holy or sacred, like a temple, she is not even allowed to enter the kitchen in some conservative households. Women are not expected to visit temples during the menstrual cycle and for reasons only god knows, the same goddess that INSIDE their temples.
Young girls in schools go through a lot of stress and trauma during the time they start getting their period. Bullying, insensitive attitude and lack of proper understanding in our young boys leads to some distressing experiences for little girls struggling with themselves during puberty. Menstruation is a very natural and healthy process, and is certainly nothing to be ashamed of. Yes, we women bleed, five days every month. We go through cramps, mood swings, hormonal changes, PMS, and a shit load of bleeding along with it, after all this what men can least do is let us bleed freely.
Despite the fact that India is the birthplace of the Kamasutra, and a home to many explicit structures like those in the Khajuraho and Konark, sex and related issues still continue to be a topic that is pushed under the carpet. We are too inhibited and conditioned to even openly talk about such issues and all we do is keep staring at women as if they were some objects of desire. Objectifying women has been an issue long standing in our country and eating into the roots of it now. Magazines, songs, movies, all of them these days leave not even a single opportunity to objectify women every now and then. For instance, let us just ponder upon the lines of the very peppy song as most of the people might find it, “Excuse me miss, kis kis kis kiss se tu bhaagegi hun bach bach ke, tenu rab ne husn ditta raj raj ke” which goes by – “Excuse me miss, how many kisses are you going to run from, trying to escape, god has been generous in granting you beauty” I mean what absolute crap is this? Females in some songs, magazines and movies are nothing but sex objects and the sheer abasement of the content is sometimes downright disturbing.
Just as everything else, even premarital sex is considered a sin in our society, and just after marriage it is considered something really sacred and important. But what about the woman who has been suppressing her sexuality since her teenage years when her mother and the entire society told her that it’s almost equal to a sin even talking about it. How is she now suddenly supposed to have sex with somebody out of the blue for a happy and fulfilling marriage? How is she supposed to make this sudden transition of thinking sex as a sin to doing it for a happy marriage. Most women in India just consider sex as one of their duties as a wife. But in actuality sex is a visceral attraction, a chemistry match which is beyond the cultural standards of honor, obligations and beauty; and it should be considered nothing less than that, and certainly not an obligation for a woman as a part of her marital duty. Even today when it comes to marriage, men want a woman who is a virgin even when he himself might not be one. They say women should be “pure” in order for something as sacred as marriage. But the question is are you marrying a woman or do you want a box of ghee, that it needs to be pure? Such mentality only makes our society gravitate back to the old, orthodox and biased culture it has outgrown of over the years.
Today’s youth are settling in modern relationships.They are working together and managing a healthy sexual lifestyle. Therefore, it’s our responsibility as educated and empowered citizens to break the existing stereotyped societal norms. We cannot change everyone’s mind-set, but we can surely start it by changing ours and that of people around us. Change is imperative and inevitable. And just as we say, “Chartiy begins at home” similarly a larger and more dynamic change will take over us once the changes at grassroot level occur.The change of the state of mind begins at home. Talk to your family, it is awkward, but for a free country and it’s citizens with a free, non judgmental mindset; it is crucial to break the stigma regarding sex, menstruation, birth control and the taboos associated with them right within the four walls of our homes and then gradually throughout the society. Things like premarital sex, use of birth controls and even entering the temples and kitchens when the girl is menstruating; are not sins. The highly indispensable prerequisite is respecting each other and their choices as an individual. We need to inculcate this among children at a very young age along with sex education, to pave way for a free spirited, aware, modern and empowered young India.