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Recently, I have been coming across news articles that discuss (with much figurative hand-wringing), the casual use of emergency contraceptives and abortion pills by young women. No doubt, serious health effects can arise due to the improper use of such pills for regular contraception – they are to be used very sparingly.
Many of the articles however mistakenly cite easy access to the pills as the reason for their too-frequent usage. Over the counter availability at the neighbourhood pharmacy may indeed help women buy them more easily, but that is not the fundamental reason for their misuse.
The fundamental reason is the abysmal quality of sex education in India. Most schools in India shy away from including a separate sex education module, even for older students from class 9-12 who are likely to be getting a good deal of information anyway (some of it wrong) from many sources. Forget a separate module on sex education – I remember my biology teacher breezing through the chapter on the human reproductive system, and actively discouraging questions. When this was the situation in a middle-class, urban school, can you imagine the level of sex education given out at poorer or rural schools with fewer resources?
No wonder, many women (and men) have a poor understanding of how fertilization actually occurs, what happens to the ovum at different stages and the impact of casual pill-popping on a woman’s body. Men may also feel little need to take responsibility since they do not bear the consequences of an unplanned pregnancy.
Nor can single women in India quite easily get the advice they need from gynaecologists. I first visited a gynaec when I was around 22 years old and single – and not for anything related to sex or reproduction. In the doctor’s waiting room, the nurse asked me loudly, “Single or Married?” and then gave me a long look when I said single. I slunk back to my seat, embarassed at the roomful of people looking at me.
Mind, I was living by myself, away from home, in a big city – and did not have to worry about whether I would meet someone I knew at the hospital or take anyone’s permission to see the doctor. How many young Indian women living at home or in small towns will feel comfortable visiting a gynaec?
The answer to getting people to use contraception in a more responsible manner is to give both young boys and girls proper sex education that includes information on respecting their bodies and of the nuts and bolts of sex, conception and contraception.
Schools hide this information fearing that “children will be spoilt” but the reality is that young people will continue to experiment regardless of what schools tell them. If easy access to pills is curtailed, people will find other ways to get them. More information is the answer, not less.
Founder & Chief Editor of Women's Web, Aparna believes in the power of ideas and conversations to create change. She has been writing since she was ten. In another life, she used to be read more...
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Shows like Indian Matchmaking only further the argument that women must adhere to social norms without being allowed to follow their hearts.
When Netflix announced that Indian Matchmaking (2020-present) would be renewed for a second season, many of us hoped for the makers of the show to take all the criticism they faced seriously. That is definitely not the case because the show still continues to celebrate regressive patriarchal values.
Here are a few of the gendered notions that the show propagates.
A mediocre man can give himself a 9.5/10 and call himself ‘the world’s most eligible bachelor’, but an independent and successful woman must be happy with receiving just 60-70% of what she feels she deserves.
As long as teachers are competent in their job, and adhere to the workplace code of conduct, how does it matter what they do in their personal lives?
A 30 year old Associate Professor at a well-known University, according to an FIR filed by her, was forced to resign because the father of one of her students complained that he found his son looking at photographs of her, which according to him were “objectionable” and “bordering on nudity”.
There are two aspects to this case, which are equally disturbing, and which together make me question where we are heading as a society.
When the father of an 18 year old finds his son looking at photographs of a lady in a swimsuit, he can do many things. What this parent allegedly did was to dash off a letter to the University which states: