ASHA workers’ family planning sessions spark controversy in rural Maharashtra

Recently, ACSA (Accredited Social Health Activist) workers have come under criticism during the outreach program in rural Maharashtra. The state government decided to include a rubber replica of a penis in family planning sessions.

ASHA workers are known to conduct door-to-door awareness campaigns for families in rural areas, talking about topics related to family sexual health. Previously, pamphlets and pamphlets were distributed for the same. Now, for the first time, the government of Maharashtra has decided to introduce models of reproductive organs to better explain the subjects.

ASHA workers embarrassed

As reported by The Indian Express, health workers carry with them the kit containing the rubber penis and uterus models for representational purposes. The process is essential, especially for newly married couples, to maintain good sexual health.

“Through the tools, ASHAs can also demonstrate the process of wearing a condom, and it is included with other family planning methods. In addition to the counseling kit, an additional pouch has been added to carry the new tools,” said the chief executive of the Health Service, Dr. Archana Patil, told the news publication.

However, the whole process drew criticism from the local community. Families criticized many workers during the campaign. A Nashik-based ASHA worker said, “As soon as we break out the mold, family members, especially men, get offended because of the stigma. They claim that we are shameless and corrupt their women. Several male members complained that it was a “misrepresentation of the phallus”.

Sex education still a taboo

In India, sex education has been stigmatized since time immemorial. Even today, the rural community remains unaware of the importance of this. They refuse to open their minds to sexual health awareness which widens the knowledge gap between rural and urban populations.

The campaign received support from health educators, returning to the initiative. “Many young couples lack knowledge about reproductive organs and coitus. Many also find it difficult to put on condoms, so they avoid it. Pictorial representations do not answer all questions,” said a volunteer from the health named Prashant Kelakar.

Some BJP Maharashtra members criticized the government for this. Cohort Deputy Chairman of the State, Chitra Kishor Wagh, tweeted Maharashtra DGP, asking him to charge Uddhav Thackeray government with Section 354 for indecency. Also, the ASHAs association has asked the public health department to ask doctors to teach with the kit concerned.

Also read: Fighting against the odds, tribal worker ASHA from Odisha is on Forbes India’s list of powerful women

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