Penis models in family planning kits rub India’s conservatives the wrong way
Rubber penises that are part of family planning training kits used by health workers have angered conservatives in India, where sex remains a taboo subject.
The country’s frontline health workers, called Accredited Social Health Activists (Ashas), are responsible for counseling couples on reproductive health.
They have recently come under fire from some locals and leaders of opposition political parties in the western state of Maharashtra for carrying rubber penises in their kits.
Nearly 25,000 kits, including penis models, have been distributed statewide to help health workers demonstrate contraceptive use and raise awareness of sexual health, especially among newlywed couples .
The inclusion of a replica womb in the kit, meanwhile, barely managed to raise eyebrows.
“Through the tools, Ashas can also demonstrate the process of wearing condoms,” said Archana Patil, Chief Health Services Officer. Indian Express.
Some health workers were reportedly embarrassed at protests where they tried to use penis models instead of referring to leaflets.
“As soon as you break the mold, family members, especially men, get offended because of the stigma. They claim we are shameless and bribing their wives,” one Asha told the newspaper.
But the introduction of replicas was welcomed by others.
“With the moulds, it’s much easier to demonstrate. We expected the backlash as soon as we saw the role models, but if we scare ourselves, how will we educate those in need? A role model will not corrupt women, but rather help them understand better, the public should understand,” said an Asha worker from the suburbs of Pune city – who asked to remain anonymous – The Independent.
Chitra Kishor Wagh – a leader of the right-wing conservative Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which is part of the opposition in Maharashtra – has alleged that the state government is promoting “sexual indulgence”.
In a tweet, she suggested the government be accused of indecency.
BJP lawmaker Akash Fundkar demanded that the state government remove the kits and apologize to health workers.
Sex therapist Sagar Mundada told the BBC that the use of these models was crucial in rural areas due to lack of literacy and awareness.
“It is not fair to say that this will spread misconceptions. If we talk openly, people can better understand the issues. If there is no discussion of sexual issues, it will actually lead to misconceptions,” he said.