A Step Ahead of Pad Man
By:- Devendra Kumar Gupta
National Award Winner & Founder
Run For Laadli (A Joint Initiative with Delhi Police) & Ladli Foundation
Akshay Kumar starrer Pad Man movie has brilliantly successful in triggering a much-needed discussion on menstrual hygiene. Maintaining hygiene during periods seems to be the talk of the town these days but simultaneously we are ignoring another greater problem standing in front of our society.
My ( Devendra Kumar Gupta ) concerns are about practice of unprotected or unsafe sex and the lack awareness, especially in slums and rural India, about the problems that are either erupting or might erupt out of such practice. We also need to understand that how the girls who don’t even know much about menstrual hygiene would be aware of the various health hazards that might occur due to having unprotected sex. There are scores of circumstances when a girl unwillingly gets engaged in unprotected sex with multiple partners. Such circumstances may include prostitution, exploitation, rape or relationship break-up with a partner. Apart from these situations, as discussed above, there is another horrifying reality about some girls who gets into prostitution as their community follows the practice of dedicating their eldest daughter to prostitution. In such communities, the female members earn livelihood through prostitution.
However, the government, especially at red light areas, from time to time takes various initiatives to make sure that no such girl gets infected with some deadly infection. The government and several social organisations, provide medical assistance, counselling and sex education to these girls to make them aware of various aspects associated with health and hygiene. I had word with a senior official from NACO for their action plan for the slums about this alarming issue; he said scheme and programs are only available for red light area. I further asked him if there is any list of red light areas in government record for which you have made scheme and running programmes? And if yes, then it clearly implicates that prostitution is legal in India at selected areas.
I have given him an example of Delhi’s GB road which known for prostitution activities but that is commercial automobile parts wholesale market as per government record not a red light area. The ongoing approach leaves behind bigger questions, such as, What about those girls who facing exploitation and could not be identified? What about those girls who are too young to understand the health and hygiene part of it? And what about those who are being forced into flesh trade by their family or relatives?
These girls are not only part of a poverty-stricken family but are also illiterate, unaware, underprivileged and belong to the lowest social order. They do not have the basic awareness of their monthly periods, how are they expected to understand the gynecological complications of unprotected sex? They become the most harmful portent of deadly diseases like HIV, AIDS, and other STDs. Their pregnancy is of course something that no one likes to address. They either abort the baby, or if failed and the child survived somehow then he/she (the child) has been brought up in such a pathetic condition that there remains no point in expecting them to have a better life than that of their mothers.
Being working for the social upliftment of women, I personally use to initially identify such families and then make them aware of the cons of these activities. The girls need to be educated about what they are doing and if she has been forced into this evil then she must have someone to confide it. Government’s initiative like “Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao” campaign is doing a great work to sensitive society, but one needs to understand that the campaign is only meant for infants and other girls under preadolescent age group (up to 12 years).
Has anyone ever wondered about the condition of daughters born about 25 to 30 years ago? Those girls who were born in families with no source of income and where to get a meal regularly is considered as a luxury, can we imagine how such girls were brought up? The parents who are struggling to feed their children, can they provide them education? When the girls are of marriageable age, can they be married of with dignity without any money? What happens with these girls? From many centuries, women had been victimized through assaults, prostitution, sexual abuses and many other things which has made them more prone to sexually transmitted diseases. Things have still not changed and the number of cases is increasing with every passing day. In the backward sections of the society, women and girl child are still not aware about the basic precautionary steps about their health. This is due to the negligence of the society towards them as well as the lack of education. In slums or rural India, female section of the society is not given a respectable position, as a result, they have no resources to look after their health.
Due to illiteracy most of the girls are involved in unsafe sexual practice with multiple people which is the basic reason behind the spread of HIV, AIDS & other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) especially in slums and rural India, is worsening the scenario. Though saying that we are completely ignoring the issues related to the practice of unsafe sex, would not be appropriate, as various social organizations and government departments, are already working hard to spread awareness in this context but they all are targeting either on urban or on red light areas.
But when you look it from grass root level, you will find that neither urban nor red light areas’ population need that much of favour. We are not concerned about poor health conditions of the females living in slums or are involved in prostitution. The facts are absolutely different at ground, the conditions of an organized sector of prostitution (red light area) is a little better than the unorganized sector. The sex workers are aware about their menstrual hygiene, hazards of unprotected sex, HIV and other STDs. Professional sex workers are already concerned about their body and health issues, as they use their flesh as source of income. But we need to understand that only 5 percent of females are involved in unearthed flesh trade. While remaining 95 percent of females gets involved in multiple sexual relations because of exploitation, assaults and other situations as discussed above.
These girls are part of poverty-stricken, illiterate, unaware and underprivileged families, and come from the lowest social order. Most of these sexually victimized girls easily enter into flesh trade or unorganized sex profession for their survival and basic needs. Today, only few of us are working for this specific sector as it is difficult to spread awareness in an orthodox society.
The reason, why I am stressing on slums and rural parts, is that the girls living there are mostly not allowed to get educated because of the orthodox and traditional beliefs and thus in a major backdrop to this, these girls remain unaware of various aspects associated with practicing sex. Also, most of the victims of sexual abuse and assaults come from this segment of society. Everyone knows that the problem of illiteracy prevails in rural and slum areas, and according to the most recent ‘National Family Health Survey‘ (NHFS-4) report released by the Union health ministry, the experiences of domestic violence, including physical and sexual violence decreases sharply with schooling and education.
The report has stated that by schooling, the percentage of women who report physical violence declined from 38 percent among women with no schooling to 16 percent among women with 12 or more years of formal education. Similarly, the experience of sexual violence decreases sharply with schooling from eight percent among women with no schooling to three percent among women with 12 or more years of schooling.
A considerable number of girls, coming from slums or rural backgrounds, are uneducated and because of the unfavourable circumstances most often they fall prey to sexual assaults. During such an assault, most of the time, those committing it, forces the victims for having unprotected sex and being unaware of what will be the impact of such an act, the victims to protect their social dignity keeps it all secret. Such girls never talk to their family or consult any doctor about any complication that occurs because of practicing unsafe sex (being uneducated, actually they don’t even have any idea about complications that might arise due to unprotected sex). Have you ever thought of taking your maid or servant to a pathology lab for a blood test? When you see any illness related symptoms in your family members, you immediately take him/her to a hospital, but have you ever tried to get an insight of what are the health hazards your maid is witnessing? Your maid, coming from economically weaker background, prefers to pursue self-medication on facing any health related hardship. Most of the Husbands of these maids are addicted to Alcohol & are involve in multiple unprotected sexual relationships Most of the masters don’t care about health issues of their maid but these people are ignoring the fact that their maids can transmit several fatal diseases to their beloved family members. I don’t think you ever tried to sterilize or throw away the knife with which your maid got a finger cut, in such a scenario other person using the same knife and gets a cut, there is a possibility of transmission of blood-borne infections.
So presently along with menstrual hygiene, there is simultaneously a bigger need for spreading a greater awareness about safe or protected sex. As we need to realise that these underprivileged and uneducated girls are not different from those who don’t know about menstrual hygiene, actually they all are the same- they neither know about menstrual hygiene nor did they know anything about unprotected sex. We all need to take this fight another step ahead and in sideline to educating these girls about menstrual hygiene; we must also take intensive efforts to make them aware of safe sex and its advantages.
Past Event organised by Ladli Foundation – A Unique Half Marathon