By Alok Ranjan:
India is the world’s second most populated country – and a majority of its population lies within the age group of 10-24 years. This is also why the country is known as a ‘young nation’. But talking about sexual and reproductive health rights (SRHR) is still a taboo – and that leads to a poor understanding of the topic. Consequently, the youth also start making poor decisions regarding their own health.
While working with the Haiyya Foundation as a grassroots campaigner, I observed that sexual and reproductive rights lie in the shadow of enormous stigmas, and the youth has no access to credible information. Young women in particular face higher levels of judgement while accessing basic products like sanitary pads, contraceptives (among others) and medical services for their sexual health. However, for any country to be truly healthy and progressive, girls and women must have the freedom, the power and the support to demand for and access their sexual and reproductive rights.
Last year, after a long time, I met one of my old female friends and we went for a movie. At that time, she was facing her periods and a bad stomach ache. When I asked her what had happened, she replied that I would not understand her problem. “Tu kya samjhega ladkiyo ko kya kya jhelna padta hai (What will you understand about the kind of suffering women face)!” she had said.
At that moment, I realised that sex education should be equally important for men too – because if a man understands women’s problems, then they can support their female partners, sister or mothers, both mentally and physically. After all, buying a condom or a sanitary pad still feels akin to purchasing illegal drugs, especially if you are unmarried or a sexually-active woman/youth.
It’s now time that men step up and support women in getting unbiased access to their rights. Believe me or not, but we are still living in a male dominated society, If young men start taking initiatives to change or fight against these age-old patriarchal norms, the condition of women in the country will definitely change for the better.
Hence, to sensitise men on sexual health and rights, I have started “Mardon Wali Baat”, an info-session for men to freely talk about sexual health and rights for both genders. The first session was an eye-opening experience for me. Apart from it being the first session that I’d ever led, I also realised the value of creating such spaces for young men to minimise the taboos which continue to exist.
The author is a grassroots campaigner working with Haiyya Foundation. He closely works on issues like gender, environment and health.
Featured image used for representative purposes only.