Nancy B. Varghese
We’re all quite aware of what happens when the thought of buying a condom comes up in a situation. The anxious walk to the drug store, whispering the name of the brand to the pharmacist behind the counter (or even awkwardly pointing at the first condom you can spot in your immediate vicinity), quickly exiting the store after a hasty exchange of notes, and swiftly pocketing the “obscene” object.
What else can Indians do to access contraceptives in a country that’s stigmatised sex to the point of it being a social taboo? Order 10 lakh condoms online, with the veil of anonymity, of course!
In just 69 days after the launch of the Free Condom Store, data gathered shows that out of the 9.56 lakh condoms they delivered free, 5.14 lakh were requested by communities and NGOs, while the remaining (4.41 lakh) were ordered by individuals.
The AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) launched the Free Condom Store and now, partnered with Hindustan Latex Limited (HLL), makes a special brand of condoms that are delivered free of cost.
In a nation where condoms are limited to 5 per cent of the contraceptive market, these figures clearly show how social stigma is one of our biggest challenges when it comes to advocating safe sex.
To be honest, this isn’t all that surprising. In a society where women are sold sanitary pads wrapped tightly in long sheets of newspaper, or concealed in black plastic bags (almost as if we’re smuggling weapons of mass destruction in our handbags), the idea of physically buying a condom is just embarrassing.
According to an expert, "That the delivery person does not know what's in the package, and those who take the order don't see the person placing the order does away with the awkwardness otherwise associated with the purchase or taking it from a volunteer."
While we still have a long way to go in eradicating the shame and taboo behind the concept of sex in our country, it’s a positive sign that a lot of individuals understand the importance of safe sex, even if it may be under the cloak of anonymity. Here’s hoping for a day when we can talk about sex just as openly as any other topic of discussion, and not wince at the mention of it like someone just screamed ‘Voldemort’ in a street full of witches and wizards!
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