Words: Neha Sethi and Akanksha Kukreti

A chemist shop owner in Okhla is flabbergasted when you ask for a female condom. He knows what a condom is. But a female condom? Surely he mustn’t have heard it right. But he is too shy to ask the woman to repeat, so he says that he doesn’t have whatever she wants.

Welcome to India. We don’t talk about sex, it’s a western concept. Nevertheless, we are the second most populated country in the world, not far behind China.

India also has the second highest number of HIV infected people according to UN agencies. 2.5 million people in India are living with HIV according to UNAIDS. The government and NACO (National AIDS Control Organisation) have come out with various new campaigns to promote condoms in order to control the virus.

But these promotional campaigns are only restricted to male condoms. No efforts have been made to even introduce Indians to female condoms. As a result, women, the prospective users of female condoms hardly know about it.

Shahana Usmani, a resident of Batla House shies away as soon as the word ‘condom’ is mentioned. And upon hearing about female condoms she ignores the question and doesn’t answer.

Anita Devi, a resident of Katputli Colony shows a similar reaction. The words female condoms were so funny for her that she kept giggling for two minutes before she could say “I don’t know anything about it.”

But then, there are women like Sana Khan, a resident of New Friends Colony, who don’t need an advertisement to tell them about female condoms. “I know about female condoms and have also used them. After all, it is my sexual health and I am concerned about it” she says confidently.

In the absence of government initiatives, we can only hope that Shahana starts thinking like Sana before it is too late.