Just in case you were wondering the MockingBird had sung its last song, you're dead wrong. It's been a long hiatus, I agree. But that's bound to happen when one keeps putting off getting net connection and is also too lazy to go to internet cafes. That said, I am yet to get myself a net connection and I don't know when I'll do that. But for the time being, I'll just post this piece I'd written sometime last week [I guess] for a Gangtok-based publication whose launch has been postponed.
If Madhya Pradesh government had its way, it would have us believe condoms are meant only for birth control. No, sire, it’s not supposed to promote pleasure. For us ‘cultured’ Indians, sex is only about reproduction and adding to the country’s already bursting-at-the-seams population. Sexual pleasure is a deviation; it is a part of the ‘tainted Western culture’. Yes, of course, Kamasutra – that ancient Sanskrit guide to sensual pleasure and sensuous lovemaking – was actually written by a degenerate firang posing as an Indian.
That is exactly why the government in Madhya Pradesh is mulling a ban on Crezendo, a relatively new condom marketed by Hindustan Latex Limited. Had Crezendo been like any other regular condom, there would have been no political furore over a tiny piece of rubber. But this contraceptive comes equipped with a battery-operated rubber vibrating ring, which can be used with or without the condom.
The vibrating condom, priced at Rs. 125 per kit, has seriously shaken the sensibilities of our political leaders who are otherwise insensitive to issues that demand their attention. Yes, they are currently vibrated and lubricated enough to move out of their luxuriant VIP bungalows and into our humble bedrooms.
The Delhi edition of Times of India, dated 20 June, 2007, had quoted MP’s state minister for energy, roads and information technology, Kailash Vijayavargiya, as saying: “A product of this kind is a tainted portion of Western culture that we can do without. We are concerned with the availability and sale of a sex toy in the open market”. Would have it been okay if these ‘sex toys’ were being sold in the black market at three times its retail price, mantri ji?
This is just one example of our misplaced Indian sensibility and India’s fascination with banning anything and everything it finds ‘morally inappropriate’. This, at a time when India is home to world’s largest population of HIV positive people, a position that was till very recently reserved by Africa. By the end of 2005, India had 5.7 million people living with HIV. Most of these infections in India were caused by unprotected sex, studies indicate.
This should have alarmed the state governments enough to put aside their tendency to be politically correct, take a step down from their moral high ground and pitch in wholeheartedly to encourage safer sex practices among its citizens, irrespective of their age or gender. Instead, what it has been doing so far is going on a banning spree and outlawing anything it finds ‘objectionable’.
In November 2005, Bangalore colleges banned male and female students from sitting with each other. Taking ridiculousness to newer heights, in May this year, the states of Gujarat, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Karnataka banned sex education in schools to ‘preserve culture’! It would come as no surprise then if our morally superior authorities mull over closing down The Condom Bar in Chandigarh. This bar, inaugurated a few months back by an HIV Positive woman, serves not only alcoholic beverages but also free condoms to its patrons in a bid to promote safer sex practices.
As if banning sex education in schools was not enough, in June, two Mumbai schools banned boys and girls from making any physical contact with the opposite sex in the school premises. So, the students of these schools now stand to be penalised if they so much as give a high five or a birthday hug to their friends of the opposite sex, or shake hands for that matter! Are we being made to witness the making of a socially and sexually repressed generation here?
The enforcers of these laws are either ignorant of or indifferent to the fact that more and more young people are indulging in premarital sex and will continue to do so, without or without their moral sanction. Their argument that sex education can ‘irreparably harm’ the minds of the young is ludicrous. What can harm them irreparably – physically as well as psychologically – is hurtling into puberty with unhealthy attitude towards the opposite sex and half-baked ‘knowledge’ about sexual matters gained from their equally ill-informed peers and pornographic websites.
Surveys reveal that the average age of first sexual encounter among the Indian youth is dropping. In most cases, these young people are engaging in sex with little or no awareness about their bodies and misguided notions about sex. In such a scenario, not equipping these youngsters with correct information about unplanned pregnancies, sexually transmitted diseases, and HIV and AIDS is not only irresponsible, it is criminal.
The youth of India has had enough of unsolicited moral advice and lengthy lectures on India’s enviable purer-than-pure culture. Those who have the power and the means to bring about a positive change – and this also includes organisations working towards HIV and AIDS prevention – should start emphasising more on action than on words. We need to shake things up if we really want to reach out to the country’s sexually active populace as well as those young adults most likely to have their first experiment with sex.
Stress should be on being more proactive. Existing norms have to be replaced by something that is more effective to the needs of our current times, even if it means being politically incorrect and ruffling a few feathers. This needs to be done, even if that means providing them sex education and distributing free condoms – with or without those vibrating rings.