We live in a country which has an archaic social infrastructure. Rather than pushing for more significant dialogues about sex and sexual violence in public discourse, we have unfortunately witnessed quite a bit of resistance from the policymakers. The political and social will to snap out of the Victorian rigidity from our system is conspicuous by its absence.
A recent ban on condom ads on television channels from 6 am to 10 pm, proves that our social system is still stuck in the 19th-century colonial mores on sex and sexuality, which have remained a powerful force in education, policy, and social relations. Such standards have even been internalised by those sitting in government departments.
I completely fail to understand why it is so blasphemous to talk about sex and sexuality in the country where the religious scriptures have been replete with sexual content. Let us see some examples:
A verse from Yajur Veda 19.88 says, ‘‘Just as a wife, the recipient of semen, at the time of cohabitation keeps her head opposite to the head of the husband, and her face opposite to that of his, so should both husband and wife perform together their domestic duties. A husband is a protector like a physician. He lives happily like a child, and with tranquillity produces progeny with penis keen with ardour.”
Rig Veda 10.110.5 says, “Spacious doors remain wide open like beautiful wives for their husbands. O divine doors, great and all-impellers, be easy of access to the gods.”
Sexually explicit images and sculptures that showed various sex positions and sexual acts, carved on the walls of ancient temples were meant for sex education. Since a temple was visited by a large part of the society, the temple pillars, walls and towers were an ideal place for these images to spread awareness.
In Brihadaranyaka and Chandogya Upanishads, we do not find any negativity being associated with sexual acts. And now we find ourselves uncomfortable when condoms are marketed on television!
If our government agencies feel too awkward, find the themes of the commercials ‘vulgar’ or wish to portray themselves as the saviours of Indian culture, they are free to go and regulate the content.
Shouldn’t young teenagers know what condoms are and why they are used? Are they not taught about the process of reproduction in schools? In the biology NCERT books, the male and female reproductive anatomy, as well as physiology, is explained. The same chapter has a special paragraph about test tube babies and what IVF or in vitro fertilization means and how it is done. Chapter 8, in class X, discusses in detail the mechanisms by which organisms reproduce and what contraception is along with describing various methods of contraception.
According to ancient religious books, formal sex education was quite common in Gurukul where the royal children were sent to study. When they were passing out, they were taught about ‘Grahsth-Ashram’ so that they could enjoy a fulfilling and a happy married life. But now the sex education course taught in schools has been renamed! We now call it the ‘Adolescence Education Programme’ because we are too ‘shy’ to hear or utter the word sex.
The silence around sexuality and the lack of sex education compel young people to gather information about their bodies from misinformed sources such as peers, the media, internet and pornography and often indulge in unguided explorations of the sexual act. Present day teens are smartphone users who have access to everything that can satisfy their curiosity.
For our pseudo moralists, sex is negative, contaminating and corrupting. In 2014, our then Union minister of Health recommended less talk about condoms, ban on sex education and more values with yoga in school. Showing condoms is blasphemous, while childbirth is not. And now the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has asked TV channels to not air advertisements selling and promoting condoms because these are “indecent especially for children” and can create “unhealthy practices” among them. Are sexually transmitted infections healthy? Are under-aged brides with unplanned pregnancies in a patriarchal society where men hate to use condoms, healthy? Is watching acts of violence on news channels or burning a man alive on camera healthy for the young minds?
I fail to comprehend if these lawmakers are ignorant, innocent or just simpleton.
The government itself provides free condoms under its community-based AIDS prevention programme.
Condoms are effective against STIs, don’t cost much and are convenient. They help other methods of birth control work even better, have no side effects and above all, they are sexy – as protection is important, but so is the pleasure. The use of a condom can effectively reduce the risk of HIV/AIDS, gonorrhoea, chlamydia, and syphilis, and it offers some protection against genital warts and herpes.
Knowledge of safe sex can prevent people from making bad decisions that can impact their health and their futures. It is high time that we all stand together to reclaim our sexual health and sexual gratification breaking the silence around sex. Come on, let us stop wobbling between conservatism and hypocrisy! Let us stop promoting ‘normative’ sexuality!