Sex and its associated aspects have no place in a comfortable conversation, even in Indian urban households. Whether its sexuality, sex, menstruation and a myriad of other issues associated with one’s sexual organs, even speaking the full term ‘bra’ out loud in public for that matter, is a big-big taboo and is meant to be discussed only in hush-hush voices.
Contraception, being no exception to this group is to be discussed only behind closed doors and is to be kept away from public view. A number of youngsters rightly understanding the baseless approach of this social stigma confidently go to their nearby pharmacies seeking condoms, but are often ridiculed by the cashier or the staff.
On the occasion of World Contraception Day, I’ve attempted to examine the intensity of this issue and tried enlisting some of the common belittling remarks the youth is bombarded with when they go to buy contraception.
The instance was detailed by a young 19-year old woman who went to buy a condom from her nearby chemist shop and was shunned away by the cashier’s assistant. I have to question whether a man buying a sanitary pad is ever told that the product is meant only for those having a uterus?
Does this shed light on how the nasty prejudice targets women specifically? Pre-marital sex is seen as a ‘slut’ marker and those indulging in it are declared as having lost all ‘chastity’. “Only if he had a little sensibility and minded his own business of selling without interfering, I would not have had a subsequent anxiety attack”, she said.
A 20-year-old woman from Amity University, Chhattisgarh, who went to a buy a Condom, was subjected to embarrassment by the cashier who asked her age in an extremely derogatory tone, in front of three other customers. “The thing I disliked the most was his authoritative tone while asking. His facial expression was as if I have committed a heinous crime by asking for a contraceptive. He did give me the product but only with a high degree of reluctance, which reflected clearly in his eyes.”, she said.
“I sent my friend to buy a condom for me. He went to his nearby pharmacy store and was shocked when the cashier said he will tell his father. I, my friend and my partner were scared till death and had to come up with a series of lies to buy a mere packet of condom”, said a student of Kirorimal College.
Using the sex-stigma of the traditional Indian households as a tool to blackmail teenagers is just another instance of the boundless grotesquerie that the Indian cashiers, driven by their flawed minds, subject the young generation to.
Actions speak louder than words, is a saying we are hearing since school but its intensity was realized by a girl from Maitreyi College when she, with her friend, went to buy contraceptives. They were made extremely uncomfortable by the communicating gaze of the cashier.
“He just kept looking at us pick them and was checking out our every movement. We tried to ignore, and summoned up are courage to join the queue for payment. He fully aware of the contraception in our hand called us in the front so that each and every customer can stare at what we were buying. I curse him to this day and that’s the place we pledged of never visiting again”, she said.
Any activity which involves a girl to declaring her sexual activeness is a prohibition if she desires not to be called a ‘whore’.
“Hearing the horrible experiences of my friends when they went to buy a condom I searched for a pharmacist with a relatively younger cashier. But, I was wrong. When I asked him for it, he smirked and commented “Khata khulega”. Oh, I so wanted to punch his face”, said a second-year student of Hansraj College.
The threads of toxic masculinity weave sex and pride together to create an ‘ideal man’. Every now and then we hear people blatantly using the statement “Ladkha Jawaan ho gaya” (The boy has transformed into a man) when a male loses his virginity.
This biased approach not only results in female suppression but also puts pressure on men to initiate sexual activities just to get a tick in their checkbox of manhood. India adds up to 1,000,000 people to its population every 20 days and the abortions occurring make up for one-third of pregnancies, out of which, almost half are unplanned.
In 2017, Durex targeted how buying contraception is fraught with psychological stigma in India and launched a ‘Jeans Condom’ which had a packaging of a leather badge sewn on denim jeans.
The situation hasn’t changed much in three years. This marketing strategy brought out by the condom brand clearly reflects upon the gravity this matter holds in our country. People need to understand that creating a stigma around a basic biological need and activity, won’t stop the younger generation from having sex, but will only make them indulge in it without necessary precautions.