Understanding Family Planning in India – A huge gap to bridge

– By Mr. Lovekush, from Panchkula

 

In the majority of cases the people don’t have proper knowledge of sex, contraception, or about sexual health. This could be one of the main contributing factors for being one of the most populated countries in the world. That is also probably why we become a laughing stock, particularly pertaining to the issue of family planning. 

As some of us may be aware, Family Planning 2020 (FP2020) is a global partnership programme that supports the rights of women and girls to decide freely for themselves whether, when & how many children they want to have. Its main goal is to increase the use of contraceptives by 74% by 2020. India has also committed to this programme.

I would like to describe a recent experience of my team members and mine. After this experience, we realised that people are not as aware about family planning and contraception, as they need to be. I was approaching young people and requesting them to give me about 10 minutes of their time to discuss their understanding on family planning. We asked a couple about the same, and they called us crazy. When we asked them why would they say that, they looked slightly embarrassed to talk about this. We asked them about FP2020, but they said had not heard of it or seen any advertisement or hoarding on it. We asked the couple about the number of children they had. They said they had four small children. They were clearly unaware about contraceptive methods. The woman (wife) also looked a little fragile and weak. On being asked about it, she confessed that it was because she had recently delivered her fourth child. We asked them if they were aware about contraceptive care or spacing methods. They said that they did not know about how to access these services. At that point we provided them with some essential information about family planning and told them about the woman’s ill health being due to lack of birth spacing. 

We realised that Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) and family planning are still rarely discussed topics and there is a severe need to openly discuss the same. It is important that the youth in our country are provided with proper education on family planning. On speaking to more young people on these issues, they suggested that large-scale awareness programmes, seminars, videos, blogs, and Television advertisements must be initiated to impart correct knowledge to people on the need for family planning.  

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Family Planning 2020 – Way to a healthy and Happy Sexual Life

– Authored by Mr. Vikas Kumar, Panchkula, Haryana

 

Under the Family Planning 2020 (FP2020) commitment, special attention needs to be given to broadcast information related to family planning and related sexual and reproductive healthcare services, in order making people aware. Care should be taken that there should be no color, caste, gender, marital status or any kind of discrimination in providing contraceptive services to people. 

A lot of times we see that the unmarried young people are denied access to contraceptive services. They have to be told that they can live mentally and physically healthier lives, with more financial stability, by opting for contraception. It also helps in reducing the number of maternal and infant mortality due to ill health and prevents sexually the number of Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs). However, it is important that consenting partners agree upon using contraceptives, since it shows a sign of mutual respect between the two. 

There are several methods for temporary contraceptive, including condoms, oral pills, injectable contraceptives, and Intrauterine Devices (IUD), etc. Sterilisation can also be opted for as a permanent method for contraception. And it is always better to consult a qualified doctor on advice related to use of contraceptives. We should make a group of people around us and explain the importance of family planning and try to reduce the ignorance in people about this topic.

Family Planning – A Pathway to Progress

-Authored by Ms. Megha Jain, Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh.

We often find that many people are hesitant to visit Government hospitals due to an apparent lack of doctors, facilities, safety, and proper care. I know young girls like me, who prefer to go to private healthcare facilities to get checked. This is probably because of better facilities at private health centres along with reliability on them maintaining confidentiality. At Government hospitals, young, unmarried girls like me may find it difficult to freely talk about sexual and reproductive health. More so, because of the judgmental reactions they might get. It is not easy for a girl to go to a medical shop and ask for a condom because of the same reason. In India, talking about sex is considered unethical and indecent by society.  While Indian parents are willing to pressurise their children when it comes to talking about marriage and having children, they find it uncomfortable to talk about safe sex and sexual and reproductive health. Believe it or not, there still are many young people in our country who are married off at a young age and they even don’t know how exactly intercourse happens. How are these same individuals expected to know about family planning or spacing methods. 

There is a high need for providing Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) because the youth today become sexually active while they are very young; maybe immediately after the onset of puberty. In today’s era, having a girlfriend or a boyfriend is very common as in other countries and we need to accept the fact that these sexually active adolescents or teenagers need to be educated about safe sex to help them live healthy, fulfilling lives while securing their future. This, I believe, is not only the responsibility of the Government but also of parents, families, teachers, and educational institutions. However, the Government does play a key role in taking lead for this because the policies are in their hands. Including CSE in the school curriculum is something they can easily implement. If the Government takes one step, the others will follow. 

India may have a lot of good schemes and polices regarding health and sexual rights. But we are still far behind where we should be. Our young people are still not able to get the knowledge from the right channels, neither are they able to access quality care freely. The more the government takes the initiatives to educate young people on sexual and reproductive health, the more secure it makes their future. CSE is required not only in urban areas but also in rural areas since young people there also equally active sexually. A difference in geography or socio-economic status cannot prevent young people from engaging in acts of pleasure. However, if they are given adequate guidance, they can surely live healthier and safe lives. To make India a better country, we must look at making our youth comfortable to talk openly about sexual health and rights.

Youth Dialogue: An Insight into the reality of india

– Authored by Mr. Gurminder Singh, Mohali, Punjab

India is a diverse county of more than one billion people and everyone has a unique identity. One can find different cultures, traditions, languages etc. in different regions of India. And yet, there is one thing common in the country – their needs. Everyone has some basic needs in order to live a healthy and fulfilling life, which includes need for food, shelter, clothes etc. Another important and essential need is their sexual needs.

Sexual fulfillment is not even considered as a basic need by some people because it is an issue that a common person doesn’t want to talk and discuss about it openly in public because he/she doesn’t want to be judged and be discriminated against. However, sexual and reproductive health and rights should be discussed openly to develop an enabling environment to live a healthy sexual life. The Indian Government and many non-government organisations have also worked in this field to change the mindset of people related to sexual health and rights and encourage them to opt for family planning methods, contraception for protection from HIV and other Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs), encourage birth spacing, etc. which has brought about some change in society. But the fact is that it’s just a drop in the ocean. There is a long of work to be done in this field to break the cultural and social barriers and bring in more acceptance of sexual and reproductive health and rights.

As a part of the “Youth Dialogue: a perspective on FP2020” – a campaign conducted by young people across the country, I can say that we have tried to reach out to as many youth as possible to understand their priority issues related to sexual and reproductive health. This may have been a little wave of change in the large ocean, which may have also led to many youth thinking over SRH issues more than they ever have until now. 

While conducting this camping in and around Mohali, my co-young people and I, were exposed to the reality and facts that otherwise we would never be able to know or understand easily. One of the key issues we understood was that, many girls are now aware about mensuration and personal hygiene. They were provided the information by their mothers, elders, sisters, and friends after they started getting their periods. However, we were told that they were not told about menstruation till they started their menses. This seemed like a positive and welcoming change. 

However, the matter of concern is that, most of the boys are still not provided any guidance and counselling by their elders or knowledgeable people even after reaching a certain age about the changes they may go through during puberty. Their primary sources of knowledge are peers and internet which does not necessarily provide the right information. They are also not informed about what is right and wrong behavior when it comes to their sexual desires and urges. The need clearly seen was that they should be informed about their sexual and reproductive health so that they don’t have to resort to untrusted sources of knowledge and can be protected from many unwanted dangers.

Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) for All at the Workplace.

– Authored by Ms. Aakanksha Moray, Hyderabad, Telangana

 

Gender-Based Violence (GBV) at workplace is commonly seen and spoken of. When we listen to the words such as rape, sexual harassment, we immediately think that a woman is a victim. It often doesn’t hit us that even men and the Lesbian-Gay-Bisexual-Transgender-Queer-Intersex (LGBTQI) community could also go through the same. A lot of times they are discriminated against and taken advantage of by being asked for sexual favours. Why does this concern us young people in particular? This is because many new joinees or freshers are also forced into giving sexual favours because they are threatened that if they don’t, they will lose their jobs. Especially those from the LGBTQI community are threatened that their gender identity will be publically revealed. In a society which still discriminates people based on their sexual preferences, this becomes a huge threat for many from the LGBTQI community and they are forced into such acts. This, I believe, is absolutely unfair. 

In order to cope up with the stress and trauma, it is essential to have a good support system. At the workplace, colleagues and the management should support the survivors to speak up against the perpetrators. Most important aspect is to believe the survivor and not question them. The management ought to take immediate action against the perpetrator and should investigate the matter thoroughly. In case it is the immediate boss or a senior colleague who has been inflicting violence on anyone, there has to be an impartial system in place so that the survivor can file a complaint against their immediate boss or senior. Time-to-time counselling could also be done to ensure that signs of GBV are carefully picked up and immediate action is taken. 

As preventive measures, every organisation must spread awareness about GBV being illegal and having serious impacts. The punishment for the perpetrators should also be mentioned. There should be a written policy in every organisation. Most importantly, every organisation must employ people purely on the basis or merit, irrespective of their gender identity or sexual orientation. 

The main reason why GBV at workplace is still a largely unaddressed situation is that many people go through it but cannot speak up due to various reasons. But an individual’s safety and dignity is at stake.  Once it is harmed it takes a lot of time for that person to overcome his/her trauma and build up confidence. Hence, it is important that the employees, especially the new joinees and juniors, are cared for and protected by the organisation to ensure complete productivity good health of all.

DEFINING LIFE – SKILLS

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-Authored by Kanjaria Krishna Kumar Jitendra

Life skills are the abilities for adaptive and positive behavior that enable individuals to deal effectively with the demands and challenges of every day. These essential life skills are learned from one’s environment, parents, family, school, and teachers. Life skills play a crucial role in moulding the behavior of adolescents. Talking about safe-sex practices and good touch-bad touch also form an essential part of an adolescent’s learning. These help the child to grow up in a more-aware and safer environment. These are also essential life-skills that help young people cope with their lives. Awareness and essential skills about how to maintain healthy relationships, makes them responsible. When life-skill training is introduced at an early stage in life as a normal conversation for young people, it will not make conversations around sex and sexuality awkward for them and will help them understand reproductive health better. Each kind of life-skill is equally important for the youth to understand in order to live healthier and happier lives.

Mental Health and Sexual Well-Being

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-Authored by Ms. Pragya Upadhyay, Ahmedabad, Gujarat.

Mental Health is all about an individual’s emotional well-being and psychological state. It is as important as one’s physical health. Over a time, a person’s mental health fluctuates because of many surrounding factors such as self-esteem, feeling loved, confidence, family breakup or loss, difficult behaviour, abuse, etc. which can impact an individual psychologically. A person’s physical health can also contribute a lot to his/her mental health and vice versa. For example, factors like birth, trauma, brain injury or drug abuse can psychologically impact the individual. Sexual health is also linked to mental health.  

As per the National Mental Health Survey (NMHS) (2015-16) in India, one in 20 people (5.25%) over 18 years of age have ever suffered (at least once in their lifetime) from depression amounting to a total of over 45 million persons with depression in 2015. In India, there are still many stereotypes related to mental disorders and hence it remains difficult for people undergoing depression to seek the support they require. Besides, most of the times, the individuals undergoing depression do not recognise it themselves and refrain from sharing it with others owing to being labelled or judged.

When it comes to sexuality or sexual health, the stereotype continues. People from the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex (LGBTQI) community are discriminated against when it comes to sexual expression. This can severely impact them. The inability to “come out of the closet” becomes even more difficult for them because of the judgement society puts them through. The trauma they undergo is sometimes as severe as being beaten up just because they dared to accept their sexual orientation or preference. This has resulted in depression many a times, leading to suicidal thoughts and tendencies among many people from the LGBTQI community. 

Inability to “perform well” in a sexual act or not being able to meet one’s partner’s expectations or satisfy them, also impacts one’s mental health. Sexual health issues such as Premature Ejaculation, Pain during sex, Erectile Dysfunction, etc. for a prolonged period do leave an impact in the minds of partners, disturbing their peace of mind many a times. Besides, lack of sexual contact can also affect people severely. 

Education plays an important role for the public’s attitude towards seeking counselling or medication. Many believe that seeking support from a mental health professional is a sign of ‘weakness’ or a waste of time and money. Secondly, in a country with a population of 1.3 billion, the number of qualified counsellors and psychiatrists is very few. 

It is important that people are education on the signs and symptoms of mental disorders or ill-health while normalising the idea of seeking support for themselves and their loved ones. There needs to be more open discussions to enable an environment conducive to seeking help. Moreover, in order to eliminate the stigma, a proper awareness programme is the suggested key. If our primary health centres and general practitioners start offering mental health care services, we can hope that it gradually gets integrated in the overall public health care system.

Is 2019 still 1900 when it comes to contraception?

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– Authored by Ms. Naina Singh, Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh

Even though it is 2019, the general beliefs and approach that the Indian society has regarding sexual and reproductive health and rights still remains somewhere in the 1900’s

When it comes to a person’s sexual activities, rights or reproductive healthcare a majority of the population is not ready to talk openly about it, because even though we live in 2019 our mindset still remains somewhere in the 1900’s.

Young people who believe in the concept of a modern society and moving ahead with the times, are ready to talk about sexual and reproductive health. But the bigger problem is that our elder generations who form the primary social circle of any individual, are still very much interlocked with the 1900s’ thinking due to which open conversations with the younger generations are not taking place. The younger generation is not getting proper information, knowledge, guidance and are ending up facing serious consequences in relation to sexual activities just because their parents or guardians are not open enough to guide and educate their children on the topic of ‘SEX’.

So, if parents, teachers or guardians themselves are not ready to move forward and speak about these important issues with their children, then how is anyone else expected to talk to them about the same? If in the end, young women and girls end up getting pregnant or worse due to a lack of knowledge, the society blames nobody but these young women and girls, making them go through misery all alone.

The problem in our society is of ‘ mis-communication/ lack of communication ‘ where both the generations are living their own lives with completely different mindsets and the older generations are in complete denial of the fact that their children can be in romantic or intimate relationships before marriage. In order to bridge the gap and bring about societal or national-level changes related to sexual and reproductive health, the communication gap needs to be addressed at the family-level with parents initiating such conversations followed by information provided in schools.

Population Growth and its Ecological Risks

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–        Authored by Mr. Atith Shukla, Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh

In this 21st century the world is facing a major problem of overpopulation which has become equivalent to global crisis now. Birth rate is consistently increasing resulting in a drain of resources as there is an increase in demand. This issue is as serious as any other global issue, where people are struggling with shortage of food, shelter, pure water and air.

This crisis is growing day by day and impacting our natural resources, as an increase in population results in higher consumption of water, food, land, trees and also the fossil fuels. People are suffering from various diseases due to polluted air in environment.

In India, population has been rapidly growing due to lack of knowledge on contraception or lack of access to healthcare services and lack of resources in rural areas. The fact that our country’s population is sky-high indicates that either people are aware of contraception but don’t want to use it, or that there is a huge gap to bridge for us as a country related to family planning. Either ways, it is a clear pressure on resources for us youth. It’s time we, young people, take tab of this situation and lessen the pressure on the world before the resources are completely depleted. There is a severe need to focus our attention towards preventive measures through use of contraception. Use of contraceptives will prevent unintended pregnancies and transmission of Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs).

To help a country develop, every citizen is equally responsible. And we must find out effective solutions and give out the right information through mass-awareness campaigns, in order to achieve success as a nation.

SRHR – The need of the hour for Youth Power

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Authored by Tinunukken Longkumer, Kohima, Nagaland

Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) is a topic which is unknown to most people, particularly among the youth. However, they may be slightly aware of sub-topics under SRHR such as contraception, sexuality education, abortion, age of consent. It is not hard to guess from the interactions with the young people that the information they have regarding the above mentioned themes is not completely correct.

In a state like Nagaland, where there are only a handful of schools which include sexuality education or some other sub-topic under SRHR, which leaves more than half of the youth and well as the general public unknown to SRHR. The information that the young people have and the understanding they have about contraception or SRHR comes mostly from peer groups and very rarely from their families.

Youth is the time when a person undergoes multiple change in their physiology as well as psychology. Their sexual preferences may also starting forming at that point and they may start experimenting to understand themselves and their bodies. Youth is also the time where they are eager to learn and experience new things. Information on sexual and reproductive health is mostly available with Accredited Social Health Workers (ASHA) and Anganwadi workers (AWW) but most of the people do not where and whom to access it from.

A comprehensive programme on sexuality education and reproductive health included by the state government in schools will help guide us young people on their sexual health. With the programme, we will also be able to receive information on where we can avail the services like contraception, safe termination of pregnancy, menstrual problems, etc. Among the youth also, the young people who have no formal education or are school drop-outs will also require such information. Hence, programmes will have to be conducted for them as well. Besides, married or unmarried, all young people must have access to information and contraceptive care.