India is the world’s second most populated country and majority lies within the age group of 10-24 yrs., also why It is known as a ‘Young Nation’. But talking about Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) is still a taboo and that leads to poor understanding of the topic and youth making poor decision towards their own health.
While working with Haiyya Foundation as a Grassroots Campaigner, I observed that sexual and reproductive rights are in the shadow of tremendous 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 etc. and medical services for their sexual health. For any country to be truly healthy and progressive, women and girls must have the freedom, the power and the support to demand and access their sexual and reproductive rights.
Last year, after a long time I met one of my old female friend and we went for a movie. At that time she was in her period dates and was suffering from bad stomach ache. When I asked her what happened?. She replied that you will not understand my problem. (Tu kya samjhega ladkio ko kya kya jhelna padta hai) 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 partner, sister or mother mentally and physically. Buying a condom or a sanitary pad still feels like buying 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, situation of women in the country, would definitely change for the better.
Hence to sensitize 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, and the first session was an eye opening experience for me. Apart from it being a session that I led for the first time. I also realized the value of creating such spaces for young men to minimise the taboos which continues to exist.
By Alok Ranjan
Alok Ranjan is the Grassroots Campaigner working with Haiyya Foundation. He closely works on the issues like gender, environment and health.