Can a minor girl get an abortion in India?

4 young girls standing

Things that minors should keep in mind : 

A minor girl is someone who is below the age of 18 years old.

Under the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act 1971, a minor girl needs written permission from her guardian to get an abortion

The MTP Act defines guardian as a person “having the care” of the minor person. Thus an adult, someone over 18 years of age who accompanies a minor girl to a clinic would be De facto guardian and could consent to an abortion on the girl’s behalf.

Things that providers should keep in mind: 

If the girl’s age and/or marital status are uncertain, the providers can proceed with the termination of pregnancy in line with the provisions of the MTP Act after maintaining complete and detailed records of the case.

It is advised to report the pregnancy as per the legal requirement under  Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act 2012 and allow the authorities to decide what actions to take.

 

Where to find health facilities for HIV and AIDS patients in Rajasthan?

an image of lego characters as doctors with first Aid written

 

Recently in Rajasthan, RSACS (Rajasthan State Aids Control Society) and Rajasthan prisons headquarters signed a Memorandum of Understanding to launch HIV intervention in prisons of Rajasthan. Now this is a very crucial step towards reducing the prevalence of HIV in the state. In many parts of India, civil society organizations have been fighting tooth and nail with their respective governments to have better health facilities, especially for pregnant & lactating women, HIV positive people and people with tuberculosis. Rajasthan is one of the first states to launch this agreement.

HIV and Prisons

An NGO SAATHI has been instrumental in bringing about this change. Various studies by the United Nations have stated that the prevalence of HIV is much higher in prisons than the general population. Rajasthan has total 127 prisons and other closed settings, including 10 central jails, three reformatories, 25 district jails, 60 sub-jails and 29 open camps. The capacity of these prisons is 32,327 and current occupancy is 32,787. Rajasthan at present has 66,000 people identified as HIV positive and are undergoing treatment. AIDS prevalence rate at the national level is 0.27%, while in Rajasthan it is 0.17%, which is less than the national level. (Hindustan Times, 20th February, 2018). Though the rate is lesser than that of India, its prevalence cannot be ignored. The government has taken various measures to identify and provide treatment to PLHIV.

Therapy Centres, ART Centres, Care Support Centres 

In order to provide care, support and treatment to people living with HIV/AIDS are getting benefited through 23 Anti Retroviral Therapy centers, 25 Link ART centers and 16 Care Support Centers. The free ART initiative was launched from October 2005 in Rajasthan. The main objectives of these centres are:

  • To provide prolong life and improve the quality of life among PLHIVs through CST services.
  • To Reducing the viral load in AIDS patients by taking ART regularly.
  • To Reduce HIV transmission by positive prevention concept.
  • To improve the HIV-TB coordination for early management of HIV-TB co-infection.
  • To provide care and support through counseling and care support centers.
  • Management of opportunistic infection & availability of sufficient O I drugs.
  • Post exposure prophylaxis for health care personnel working with PLHIVs.
  • Early infant diagnosis to reduce chances of spread the HIV infection in baby.
  • Reduce stigma and discrimination related with PLHIVs among Health Care Personnel as well as society level.

Following are the services available at these ART centers are free of cost:-

  1. Counseling
  2. Investigation
  3. CD-4 Test
  4. ARV Drugs
  5. O.I Drugs
  6. Knowledge of Social beneficial Scheme
  7. Condoms
  8. IEC Material
  9. Knowledge about network people
  10. Referral to Care Support Centre & other related units

 These are the Anti Retroviral Therapy Centres across the state as per RSACS:-

Though the government has taken various steps to ensure that PLHIC have access to various ART centres and get treatment but the situation remains grim for pregnant women who are HIV positive. Many newspapers have reported in the past decade how the doctors do not cases of pregnant women who are HIV positive despite the strict guidelines by the Medical Council of India and the Government to not devoid any pregnant women of the delivery services. There are safety measures that can be easily taken by the doctors and nurses while delivering a child of an HIV positive woman. The recent budget announcement in Rajasthan did not talk much about health. HIV was not mentioned at all. A better monitoring mechanism is required for all these centres to function effectively and regular counselling and training of doctors and all the health service providers must be mandatory. We need more sensitized doctors at the health facilities, especially government health facilities because getting treatment from private hospitals is an expensive affair. There is a dire need to reduce the out of pocket expenditure of people on health so that they do not get pushed under below poverty line as we all know that the second biggest reason for poverty in India is expenditure on health!

 

S.no. Name of ARTC/ FIARTC Address

1 SMS Medical College Jaipur Basement of Dhanwantari OPD, SMS Hospital, Jaipur Ph. 0141-2518630,2572290

2 Dr. S.N. Medical College, Jodhpur Infectious Disease centre, Kamla Nehru Chest & TB Hospital, Jodhpur – 342 002 Ph. 0291-2751161

3 S.P. Medical College, Bikaner Ground Floor, OPD Building, Near ANC Clinic, PBM Hospital, Bikaner – 334 003 Ph. 0151-2201119

4 R.N.T. Medical College, Udaipur MB Hospital, Opp. Trauma Ward, RNT Medical College, Udaipur Ph. 0294-2419403

5 Govt Medical College, Kota New Medical College, Hospital Kota, 0744-2471391

6 J.L.N. Medical College, Ajmer Near Orthopedic Ward, J.L.N. Hospital, Ajmer 0145-2633426

7 Govt. District Hospital, Alwar Govt. District Hospital, Alwar 0144-2346033, 2345087

8 S.K Hospital, Sikar S.K Hospital, Sikar 01572-251093, 271856

9 Mahatma Gandhi Hospital, Bhilwara Mahatma Gandhi Hospital, Bhilwara 01482-232641

10 Bangar Hospital, Pali Bangar Hospital, Pali 02932-226059

11 Govt. District Hospital, Barmer Govt. District Hospital, Barmer 02982-230369,230041

12 Govt. District Hospital, Jalore Govt. District Hospital, Jalore 02973-225090

13 J.L.N Hospital, Nagaur J.L.N Hospital, Nagaur Ph: 01582-244822

14 Hardev Joshi Govt. General Hospital, Dungarpur Hardev Joshi Govt. General Hospital, Dungarpur Fax No.02964-230203

15 RBM Hospital Bharatpur RBM Hospital Bharatpur. Ph: 05644-220054

16 BDK Hospital Jhunjhunu BDK Hospital Jhunjhunu. Ph: 01592-235025

17 Civil Hospital, SriGanganagar Main OPD, Civil Hospital, SriGanganagar. Ph: 0154-2970507

18 Govt. District Hospital, Sirohi Govt. District Hospital, Sirohi. Ph: 02972-220065

19 MG Hospital, Banswara MG Hospital, Banswara. Ph: 02962-248283

20 Sawaliyaji Govt. District Hospital, Chittorgarh Sawaliyaji Govt. District Hospital, Chittorgarh. Ph: 01472-241744

21 RK Govt. District Hospital, Rajsamand RK Govt. District Hospital, Rajsamand. Ph: 0295-2222885

22 DB General Hospital, Churu DB General Hospital, Churu.

23 Govt. District Hospital, Hanumangarh Govt. District Hospital, Hanumangarh.

Following are some useful important links for people who are seeking more information on HIV in Rajasthan:-

 

Article by: Tushita Mukherjee

Tushita is a dreamer. Outer space and astrophysics attract her a lot. She loves both machines and trees. She is currently working with an NGO. In her free time, she likes to read books and sing. She is particularly fond of Rock and Hindustani Classical music. Clicking pictures of people is something she is exploring these days.

Where is Cyber Cell in Bangalore?

a sketch of women and some objects

Cyber Crimes are on rise on social media platforms. More and more young people are becoming victims of it. There has been an increase in number of cyber crime cases on other online platforms as well. There are various recourses that a victim can choose in such a scenario.

In such a scenario where does one go to file a complaint?

In Bangalore, Cyber Cell is at Palace Road ,inside the Carlton House, in the CID Headquarters. We went looking for this space.

 

BDA 2031 Master Plan Consultation

BDA 2031 Master Plan Consultation

                                                                                                  By The Bachchao Project and Hidden Pockets Collective

Our Intention behind this

The way to build an inclusive city is to understand the diverse needs of the people interacting with the city. Every city has an governing body to draft plans, these plans essentially used to shape the work and infrastructure in the city over a period of time. Every few years when new plans are formulated, these plans are released for consultation to the citizens of the city.  These are opportunities for citizens to engage and shape their city to their needs.

When BDA released the master plan for 2031 we saw this as an opportunity to look at the gendered needs in the city and highlight the same. This is the first of our efforts to be more involved in the City Plans.

Our observations :

In our analysis of the BDA Master Plan, we realized that most of the draft of the planning is based on a concrete understanding of a city, which is focussed more on developing spaces for industrial purposes without reflecting the lived experiences of people living in these spaces.  The plan is more focussed more making the cities more functional without looking at some of the problems presently being faced by the people living in these spaces.

We have based our observations on the maps provided in the BDA 2031.  With regard to land use, there is a need for more public audits and data collection. Data is insufficient and does not accurately locate some of the spaces.

The proposed city planning does not attend to needs of all persons living in these spaces. While the BDA has considered traffic, emergencies and disasters; safety as a parameter has not received any mention in the document. Based on experience, we can identify some of the spaces in the city, which are densely populated and some of these spaces have reported several harassment incidents and are considered unsafe for eg: the petta area right in the center of the city and the city bus stand. However safety has not been considered and this has not reflected in the urban planning of some of the spaces. These are just few spaces we could easily point out but there are several such pockets in the city. While the master plan has looked at all the available data sources when it comes to emergencies, disasters and even of archaeological importance. They have failed to look at any available safety indexes and nor have initiated conversations in that direction

Similarly while considering the infrastructure of the city. In area zoning regulation there is mention of width of the road, but indicators like street lighting and footpaths for pedestrians which can be some of the markers for safety concerns in an area is missed out.

In a city like Bangalore, which has a growing concerns around migration, there is no mention of shelter homes for different communities. They have not received any place in area zoning regulation. Not just shelter homes for different communities, shelter homes for women and children were also not considered under public spaces. These spaces are important is supporting a healthy community. A city as large as bangalore should have safe spaces for survivors of abuse and people with no support systems. We thought it was odd that the plans did not consider this as a need of the city.

Bangalore is a melting point of people coming from different parts of India, who are adding to the booming economy of the city. Migration of human resources also puts onus on the city to make the city more accomodating for people who are migrating. This is often done by encroaching spaces which are allocated as public spaces.

The rising population also leads to the question of utilization of empty and open spaces to accommodate the in flow of people. We strongly suggest that the language used for interlinking open spaces and eco sensitive spaces defeats the purpose as eco sensitive spaces are not spaces meant for usage by public.

The draft mentions Public sector enterprises as lung spaces of a city, indicating that these spaces can be used by general public for purpose other than functions of public sector. This is a very limited understanding of a public space and also reduces the space which could have been accessible to general public.

There is a potential of public spaces to be point of interaction where people from different communities can interact, it can be a great space for flourishing informal sectors. There is a need to define public space with usage perspective and not just see it as empty spaces.

UNESCO defines a public space as an area or place that is open and accessible to all persons, regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, age or socio-economic level. Some of the structures can be  plazas, squares and parks.

More SDZs seemed to have been proposed which are not connected within the existing layout of the city.

The industrial and residential areas do not have a clear path of connection between the two sections. These spaces can become inaccessible and unsafe for people from different communities.

Public spaces also provide an opportunity to design sanitation as part of the urban planning and introduce several public toilets especially for women working in the informal sector who might not have access to close toilets in their work spaces.  Public toilet is another aspect, which failed to get notice of the planning process. This also gets linked to safety aspects in these public spaces. If public spaces are designed keeping in mind the needs of people from different communities, it becomes more diverse, attracts more people and provides the space with a community feeling, which also makes safety then as a community issue instead of an individual issue.

Need for additional Data

Through our work we also realised the need of city specific gender data. We released there were no public records of safety audits, nor there were enough material talking about experiences. The mapping of what makes women’s lives in the Bangalore meaningful was also missing.

Future Work

Through our work we recognised that the need for more rigorous and in detailed submission. Our comments were unfortunately limited by lack of time and readily available information to make it possible.

  • We plan to build a joint process for reviewing such plans in the future.
  • We also understand the need for establishing better communication with the city planning committees and to review the existing regulations and push for a more inclusive approach in them.
  • We understand the need of safety audits and the dearth of informations due to lack of it and we hope to support more community audits.
  • We also would like to build a larger community which can work and think of these issues in the gendered lines and we welcome any partnerships in this direction.  

References  

Our submission to the consultation are based on our broad learnings from :

  1. Phadke .S, Khan. S, Ranade .S‎ ,2011 Why Loiter?: Women And Risk On Mumbai Streets
  2. Citizen Labs Articles on Inclusive Cities :

https://www.citylab.com/amp/article/365541/

https://www.citylab.com/equity/2017/09/the-how-and-why-of-inclusive-growth/541422/

https://www.citylab.com/equity/2016/06/how-to-build-inclusive-cities/487322/

The Bachchao Project is a community effort to develop / support Open Source Technologies and technical frameworks with the following goals :

1. Prevention of Gender Based Violence.
2. Equal Rights for Women and LGBTQIA communities

Can Indian courts handle sexual pleasure?

a sculpture of a woman with orange on her back

The word ‘sex’ has been tainted, maligned and mostly misused within the legal institutions. ‘Sexual pleasure’ as a theme is yet to be explored within the legal jurisprudence. In Kamlesh Vashwani Supreme Court order (2014), the judge while delivering the order stated that “things like (porn) lead to prurient interests in the younger generation and are responsible for rising instances of sexual exploitation.” He was not referring to any established study co-relating violence and sexual pleasure. He was simply exhibiting sex negativity prevalent in the court rooms.

Sex negativity remains unquestioned by courts, legislature and legal scholarship. Even activist spaces have focused more on issue of sexual violence against women and have not paid enough attention to promotion of women’s sexual rights, except in the area of reproductive rights. Indian Feminism’s engagement with law has been limited to the violence aspect of sex while losing an opportunity to enter in a dialogue with ‘sexual pleasure’. If law has been used in the past as a reformatory instrument in feminist struggles, it can also be used to redefine and re-analyse feminist relations with sex (the act) and ‘sexual pleasure’

Is there is a negative approach to the term ‘sex’ in our legal system. If there is, can we replace this approach with a sex positive framework and do we tend to benefit from this exercise?

One of the immediate effects of the December 16th incident was the increase in interest taken by the commercial enterprises around safety for women. The state machineries also displayed increased interest in the safety of the woman. Legal mechanisms also took a similar route in the form of a Criminal Amendment Act, 2013 where it resorted to criminal justice system and equated justice with legal enforcement. The new law introduced a lot many categories of crimes and new relations were created between law and sexuality. In a way, Criminal Amendment Act, 2013 created more methods to protect the idea of a woman.
The increased surveillance on the women was justified in the name of safety.

The sex negativity inherent in these different initiatives ended up curtailing women instead of providing spaces for them. The new law retained the sex negative language by evoking the notions of modesty and chastity of a woman and simply expanded the range of activities that threatened or blemished this archaic understanding of female sexuality. This new law could have been the space and time to demand sexual speech, a possibility to have a sexual choice.

Many laws in India rely on the assumption that sexual pleasure merits constraint because it is inherently negative. In Ranjit Udheshi (1968) Supreme Court judgment, it was held that “obscenity by itself has extremely “poor value in the-propagation of ideas, opinions and information of public interest or profit”. The exceptions provided to obscenity law clearly lays down that if the work comes from a scholarly, literary, artistic and political (hereinafter referred as SLAP) values it will provided with constitutional protection. However Sexual pleasure derived is not itself a good enough reason and thus is not worthy of protection.

In recent case, Aveek Sarkar judgment Supreme Court while dealing with an issue of obscenity held that we need to apply the community standards while defining obscenity. The court held that “Only those sex-related materials which have a tendency of “exciting lustful thoughts” can be held to be obscene, but the obscenity has to be judged from the point of view of an average person, by applying contemporary community standards”. This was clearly a shift from Hicklin Rule applied in Ranjit Udeshi (1968) which was more about the effect of the content. Inspite of the expansion of the definition and understanding around obscenity, courts were not willing to engage with the notion of sex in a positive framework.

Sexual pleasure is considered to have poor/negligible value. Sexual speech is not considered as speech and laws curbing sexual speech are justified in name of public order and morality. For purpose of law obscenity is no speech.

If we challenge this assumption, and commence on something like sexual pleasure is valuable, can this benefit laws engaging with sexual activities?

Sexual pleasure is mostly subjective and is achieved by individuals in different ways. Value of sexual pleasure is evident by the ends to which people go and the significant unwanted consequences they endure to achieve it. Sex positive laws are laws that perceive a certain value in sexual activity and allocate some value to sexual pleasure. Sex- positive laws are laws that inherently do not assume that sex is bad thing, and focuses on other aspects in a sexual activity instead of only focusing on the sexual act. It perceives that both men and women can experience sexual pleasure and can provide their consent for the act.
If sexual pleasure is considered to be valuable and is provided equal recognition as sexual speech, it would directly affect a lot of laws which works on the principle of sex negativity. Sex positive frameworks would question the less constitutional protection guaranteed to sexual speech than speech that promotes violence. Using this sex positive framework, the piece tries to discuss effect of it on one specific law: the obscenity laws. This law prohibits sale, circulation and display of any objects that can have a depraving effect on anyone coming in contact with it.

Whenever there is any discussion around sex in legal discourse harm principle is always cited as the main reason, instead of citing sexual pleasure as a reason for the ban. In cases of obscenity, state has to demonstrate that harm is both imminent and likely to occur as a result of that speech. However an offensive material retains constitutional protection if it contains any of the scholarly, literary, artistic and political values. The law seeks to protect not those who can protect themselves but also those whose prurient minds take secret pleasure from erotic writings. Obscenity test is based on the assumption that law needs to protect those who cannot protect themselves. Law prioritizes prevention of unlawful violence over sexual pleasure. Much of the law regulates distribution to willing consumers instead of protecting individuals from exploitation.

Also most of the times, the harm is projected to be on women. There is an unspoken assumption that sexual pleasure can lead to increase in violence against women.

Sex toys are one of these objects that are indirectly affected by these laws. The fact that sex toys/ articles and such related products ‘ carry the impression’ of being ‘obscene’, any commercial dealing in such articles always carries with it a certain element of risk of attracting obscenity laws.

Sex positive framework would help us admit that sex toys can be valuable for some and there is no immediate harm. It opens up discussions around sex toys and institutions flouring around it. This framework removes the dubious distinction between sexual and non-sexual values (scholarly, literary, artistic and political values). In a sex positive framework, one can argue that sexual pleasure is also valuable and hence would require protection. It also negates the assumption that sexual pleasure result in violence against women as woman too are seen as capable of demanding sexual pleasure.
Sex positive frameworks can also help us in dealing with emotions which can be something more than offending moral values in the case of obscenity. For example, Martha Nussbaum in her work Hiding from Humanity (2004) offers an alternative method at looking at obscenity laws. She contends that obscenity laws are catering something more than the moral values. It also deals with spaces which evokes disgust and regulates it. This factor disgust has been expressed in some of our Indian Supreme Court judgments also.
—————————————————————————————————————-

CONCLUSIONS:
In most of the cases, sex can be a wonderful practise, and can be performed with consent of partners, without violating the consent of anyone. It is necessary to shift the focus to consent from the current practise of locating violence in sex.

This piece has only engaged with obscenity laws in sex positive framework. Similarly Rape laws, family laws and constitutional laws can also benefit from a sex positive framework. Positive value to sexual pleasure, not only provides us with a better definition of obscenity which is currently based on a narrow understanding of sexual speech, it also helps in developing a language of consent. Sex-negative framework has taken us up to a point where we locate the violence in sex. It does not mean sex only involves violence. It is necessary to focus on the right of the woman to feel sexual pleasure, which gets denied in a sex negative framework

A sex positive approach transforms the debate surrounding several areas of law and requires scholars to undertake a more honest assessment. It provides us with a framework for laws that recognizes the value of sexual pleasure. Theorists have demonstrated with increasing sophistication how categories in law form part of the social process, through which new gendered and sexualized subjectivities are created. Sex-positive framework helps us incorporating languages around different forms of sexualities and helps us in developing sensitive attitude towards different genders. The recent NALSA judgment was a step towards in this regard. It provides us with a model – a safer sex negotiations and a set of better practises.

Where do women go to file cases against harassment in Hyderabad?

Building of Bharosa Center

Hidden Pockets Collective visited Bharosa Support Center for Women & Children, Telangana. “Bharosa” –Support Center for Women and Children is intended to support women affected by violence, in private and public spaces, within the family, community and at the workplace. It helps women facing physical, sexual, emotional, psychological and economic abuse, irrespective of age, class, caste, education status, marital status, race and culture will be facilitated with support and redressal. Bharosa also helps aggrieved women facing any kind of violence due to attempted sexual harassment, sexual assault, domestic violence, trafficking, honor related crimes, acid attacks or witch-hunting who have reached out or been referred to the Center will be provided with specialized services.

Bharosa is an NGO working with Hyderabad City Police and the Telangana Government. It works with the Child Welfare Committee. Swati Lakra-IPS Officer is the main in charge of the center. We met  the Circle Inspector who supervises the center.

Procedure: FIR is lodged at the local police station. Then a lady constable and a male constable come to Bharosa with a request (Medical request along with Form 161).  It is compulsory for the police stations to come to Bharosa or transfer the cases to Bharosa (Domestic violence and rape cases).

  • The first step at Bharosa is to register the case. Then victim is sent to the counselor, most of the counselors at Bharosa are Clinical psychologists.
  • The second step is to record the statements. If the victim is below 18 or very young, then there is a room for children where the child would be taken along with the mother and the counselor and then the statement is recorded. The Sub Inspector also sits through this procedure.

Bharosa also has a room for video conferences where the statements are recorded. Many a times this room is used for recording statements from children who are scared to go the magistrate. After the recording the charge sheet is prepared. The center is well equipped, it has internet. The center also has a medical room where medical check ups are done. The state has recruited few doctors for Bharosa who also work in government hospitals. They are supposed to  handle the cases. This hasn’t started completely yet, so at present  the Auxiliary Nurse Midwives take the patients to the government hospitals for the examination. All are sent to either Gandhi or Osmania Hospitals. Bharosa also has a lunch room/snacks room where food is provided to the victim and the person accompanying the victim. If the child/victim doesn’t want to go home, then they are sent to the shelter homes. There are few shelter homes which are under Bharosa. There are 3 vehicles through which they are sent to the shelter homes. The building is open for 24 hours. The victims who come at night are sent to the shelter homes. And next morning their cases are registered. After the recording and all procedure is done, the case starts. Bharosa helps them in following up with their cases.

It is  also trying to get the court building for POCSO cases next to Bharosa so that the children don’t have to suffer.

SHE TEAM: The same building has another Team called the She Team. This is for the eve teasers, to punish them. There are 63 stations, and each have 1 member from she team. There are 10 teams under she team which takes care of different locality. They stand at bus stops, colleges, any crowded places. They work from morning 6 am to 11 pm. In the team there are 6 people (one female constable, one Sub Inspector, four male officers). They have spy cameras. If they see any crime they bring the eve teaser to the center (She Team building). If eve teaser is a minor, then they call the parents, give counselling and send them back (after taking the undertaking). If the eve teaser is a major then they take the finger prints, Aadhaar copy and all the details and put it online. By doing this they keep a check on how many times that particular person has committed any offence.  The nature of the crime is checked. If it is related to cyber crime then the person is sent to cyber crime cell. The complaints can be done on calls, Facebook, Twitter, whatsapp.

 

Bharosa and She Team  has made things easier for the NGO, police and victim. The victim doesn’t have to move around looking for help. Under one roof she gets all the services. There is also a team which works on outreach. There are 6 members in the team. They go to schools and colleges every day. They go speak to the Principle, then talk to the students. They talk about good and bad touch, which all cases should be reported is taught to them (especially to girls).

On principle it looks like a great place which is trying to be more holistic and response in terms of responding to problems related to women. However it still uses surveillance as a model, and are collecting data against anyone who gets caught by the police.

It does understand the concept of “One Stop Crisis Centers” in bringing all the service providers under one roof.

Where do women find sexual and reproductive health service doctors in Hyderabad?

Women sitting outside a clinic

If you are unable to find the service, please do write to us.

Write to us at hiddenpocketsinfo@gmail.com
Call us at +918861713567

 

 

Family Planning Association of India (FPAI) Hyderabad :

  • FPAI Hyderabad, 6-3-883/F, Topaz Building, Punjagutta Office Colony Lane,Punjagutta, Hyderabad, 500082

We have been mapping FPAI Clinics in different parts of India. We went visiting the FPAI Hyderabad Branch and it was one of the biggest independent branch we have seen. It was an independent building, in the middle of the city. It had a lovely park outside the hospital. Interestingly enough there was a diagnostic Centre right below it.

The registration fee is Rs 50. There would be a minimal cost for further procedures required.

We went inside the first floor of the building. It had a lot of patients and their families sitting right outside the Out Patient Department section. There were 2 surgeries that were conducted that day. We meet the person in charge who was willing to show us around.

The place had a doctor, a counsellor, some operating rooms and a ward as well.

They even had some posters that provided information regarding Medical Termination of Pregnancy and the number of months under which one could avail the services. We met the Auxiliary Nurse Midwife who was present at the clinic and who also showed us some of the rooms as well as some of the services available. At this specific clinic they only provided abortions for up to 12 weeks ( 1st Trimester).

 

(Poster  in Telegu explaining different months within which abortion can be performed)

The different types of services that come along :

  1. Sterilisation (Both Female and Male)
  2. Temporary Methods : ( IUD, Oral Pills)
  3. Medical Termination of Pregnancy
  4. Cancer Screenings

 

How does a sexual offender look?

images of 4 silhoutes

I remember reading this tweet during the #MeToo campaign, a campaign about sharing stories of survivors of sexual violence.

Zara Larsson‏Verified account @zaralarsson
“Isn’t it strange how every woman knows someone who’s been sexually harassed but no man seem to know any harasser?”

In my head I did know sexual offenders, atleast I had an idea about them and how to keep some people safe. It was discomforting and at the same time made me realise how we all have an image of a sexual offender. The abstract person who might exist in some other part of the world, but not inner personal lives.

I recently attended a workshop by Enfold India Trust by Donald Findlater who has been working with Lucy Foundation, UK on combating Child Sexual Abuse. He has worked as Probation officer with Adult Sexual Offenders on Assessment and Treatment of male Sex Offenders.

He has been focussing about the “changing nature of sexual violence”. There is a lot of focus on Child Sexual Exploitation but not really enough conversations on Child Sexual Abuse with former discussing about strangers and latter focusing on known people. Data does prove that most of the offenders are known to young people. In all of these conversations, the prevention aspects have not really received its fair share deal of focus. There is so much focus on criminizalistion aspect of it, but there does not seem to be conversations around how to keep premises and young people safe.

Some of the myths are that the perpetrator is a stranger, when in fact it is usually someone you know well and that it can’t happen to our children. Offenders could be family, friends, religious leaders or people who are part of the household.

The knee jerk reaction to any reporting of Child Sexual Abuse in India is setting up of CCTV cameras and sex offenders registry. Donald Findlater shared some of the experiences of United Kingdom where some of the programmes had been more successful that setting up of CCTV cameras.

a) Running of Helpline: Running a helpline with  a service structure in place to address the concerns. Stopitnow.org is running a helpline for adults in the UK to ensure that those people who are troubled by their sexual thoughts about young children can seek help. The program is confidential and ensures that no one seeking assistance is arrested. We hope to stop the adult before he or she abuses a child.

b) The UK has a closed sexual offenders registry where only authorities have access which basically means only people who have been convicted of the crime fall in the list. That appears to have worked far more effectively in comparison to US Sexual offenders registry which has open registry.

He also emphasised on the myth that sex offenders can’t stop. In his experience it was possible to get help and treatment and it is possible to restrain actions.

In his experience a lot of work needed to be done with the communities. There is a need for stronger community bonds with young people and lot more open conversations with young people around sexuality. In the current stream of information on internet, young people were at risk as well as advantage of meeting different people in different set ups. Young people in schools, young people in public places and young people in internet spaces were the different groups that one needed to engage with.

Mr. Findlater did focus on the aspect that most of the young people take time to come out and share their experiences of abuse. A lot of them get abused by the age of 10 years and most of them have very limited understanding around sexuality. It would be more healthy if they had trusted set of people in their lives to have conversations with, which would help them understand the changes happening in their lives. Schools had to become that space which emphasised the need for comprehensive sexuality education.

Schools instead of focusing on CCTVs and waiting for the incident happen, they can ensure that most of their spaces are designed in such a way that young people feel comfortable accessing them. There are no parts of the compounds which are secluded from rest of the space. Every person working within an institution has been trained around sexuality and has been clearly guided through child protection policy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Acceptability of female condoms In urban India: A study

FC2 : Female Condom

Hidden Pockets  had the opportunity to chat with Jessamyn Bowling, Research Manager of a study conducted on ‘Acceptability of the female condoms In urban India.’ The principal researcher of the study is Debby Herbenick and the study was funded by the Gates Foundation.

Hidden Pockets: What was the focus of the study?

Jessamyn Bowling: In India, there aren’t as many good mechanisms for contraception that are within women’s control. Barrier methods in the case of relationships that are not actually monogamous or for people who are doing sex work then having a barrier method that the female can insert herself is preferred.

Hidden Pockets: What was the demographic of the participants?

Bowling: We worked in Delhi and Chennai. We restricted it to cis-gender women. So female and women identified who were over the age of 18 with a male partner and willing to use a female condom were part of the study. In Chennai, we had a little bit of issues just gathering people from a larger community due to the floods. So we specifically worked with a group of people who occasionally engage in sex work. So we had diversity in responses. There were similarities and differences (in the responses). However in Delhi, we worked with groups of people that were organized more around their neighborhood. In Delhi, we also had two groups of men because we wanted to also understand some men’s perspectives. We wanted different suggestions that they (the men) would like because we know that to get women to use female condom, it’s really important that their partner likes it as well. Out of the total of 69, 22 of them were men. The inclusion criterion was the same for the men. They just had to be over 18 and had to be living in Delhi and be willing to use a female condom with their female partner.

Hidden Pockets: How did you go about achieving the objectives of your study? What was the research process involved for your study?

Bowling: We did a focus group discussion with 69 individuals. We then did interviews with just a few individuals just to confirm findings from the larger group discussions. All the people in the focus groups were married and the people in the interviews were dating people. We gave people female condoms to use before the focus group discussion or interviews. We asked them to use them and then make sure that you know they had used it before we had the focus group or before we had the interviews. We asked them in the focus group about their experiences with using it (female condom) and what they would suggest to make it better.

Hidden Pockets: Which was the brand of female condom given to the participants, both men and women?

Bowling: We gave them the FC2. The FC2. It is pretty widespread in the US. So I wanted to be give them one from the US and then one that is available in India. I had ordered for one called Velvet through amazon but the shipment never arrived so we were only able to give them one of the FC2s.

Hidden Pockets: What’s the lifespan of a female condom? How many times can a woman use it or is it just for one use?

Bowling: It is officially only for one use. She can insert it for hours ahead of intercourse though but for some populations that accessing the female condom is really a problem. The female condom is stronger in material than the male condom is. Some male condoms that are made out of the same material but they’re rare and expensive. So technically the same partner can use it more than once but you’re not going to take it out and wash it or anything. But if you’re having multiple ejaculations during the same event and it’s with the same person then that generally considered a relatively safe thing to do. You just want to make sure that the female condom is still in place so that the ejaculate isn’t moving around and entering into the vagina but generally its only marketed sort of quote on quote for a single event I guess a single use.

Hidden Pockets: Apart from the cyclone, what were the other challenges that you faced with conducting this study?

Bowling: In Chennai, we had an issue with language. We asked about how sexual pleasure is important for female condoms. We literally had three different people trying to translate the phrase ‘sexual pleasure’ into Tamil. Similarly, in Delhi, the word for clit (in Hindi) wasn’t something our community partners used regularly. So they looked it up and they found the word but if the people working in reproductive health for women don’t use it regularly then obviously the participants may not know it as well. These issues were unexpected. It’s not so much like a real challenge but it’s like an interesting piece that we were working around. This is why working with the community partners was really important. There may have been some participants who didn’t actually use the female condom but they might have lied about it in the focus groups. That might be possible but we don’t really think so because it didn’t seem like that was really a major barrier. It seemed like people were reporting pretty honestly about what was happening with them.

Hidden Pockets: How aware would you say the women (participants) were about female condoms?

Bowling: I think that they’ve heard of it and that’s it. But they’re available apparently in only one or two shops in Delhi but are so expensive, people would say yes I’ve heard of it but they’ve never seen it. And they certainly didn’t know how to use it so we did a demonstration for them which they said was really helpful. Their partners also didn’t really know about it either. There were one or two people in the interviews who were with a little higher level of education who might have seen it on a Buzzfeed video or somewhere online but they hadn’t used it before. From what I understand, female condom can cost anywhere between 200 and 500 (for one condom). You can get them a little bit cheaper online but honestly it is nowhere close to what people pay for male condoms so that it’s just not viable at this point. It why would they know about something that is not feasible? But people aren’t entirely ignorant of them.

Hidden Pockets: How aware would you say the men were about female condom compared to women?

Bowling: Maybe one or two (men) have heard about it but not very aware at all. I wouldn’t say the women are really aware. They just know that this thing exists and the men know less than that. But honestly I think the fact is that the women didn’t really know what it looks like, let alone know how to use it. Even those who are aware of it, don’t think it to be really important because they can’t get a hold of it (due to the cost).

Hidden Pockets: What were some concerns of women who used it regarding the usage of female condoms?

Bowling: One main challenge was that the insertion takes a little bit of getting used to. We had some women participants who were familiar with using a menstrual cup. Those participants were more comfortable with using it. It’s like a skill to fold the condom up and insert it inside of you. The inner ring was something that they didn’t really like. I asked them about how they would redesign it and that’s one of the things they would redesign. Since they weren’t used to using it while having sex, they were worried that the outer ring would flip inside. So the mental aspect of sexual pleasure was a little bit reduced in that front because they were concerned about it.

Hidden Pockets: What did they like about the female condom?

Bowling: They liked a lot of things about it. They liked the fact that it was in their control. Most said if my partner’s lazy and doesn’t or they’re intoxicated and doesn’t want to use a male condom then I have the ability to be in control of it. Many people both women and men liked how it felt. This comes with some lubricant already inside. They liked how that felt extra slippery. Then women also really enjoyed being able to after sex, if the man had ejaculated, just be able to pull this out. It was an easier clean up for them compared to unprotected sex.

Hidden Pockets: What do you think could be done to increase awareness about female condom among women?

Bowling: I think it’s important to have the government on board in terms of increasing not just awareness but availability. So these aren’t really available in the dispensaries. My understanding is that even if you increase awareness it doesn’t matter because you’re just going to create the demand for something that is so expensive. Even to order them online, the ones made in India, it is nowhere near the cost of male condom so why would people use them? Why would someone pay so much for it? People (participants) suggested that marketing be put out on television and radio and some billboards as well using film actors, bollywood actors and actresses in the same way that male condoms have used to make male condoms seem normal.

 

To read more about User’s experience of a Female Condom : http://www.hidden-pockets.com/female-condom-experimenting-scheme/

Sexual Health Data : Do Indian cities think about its reproductive health?

Hidden Pockets Collective for last one year has been working with young people accessing sexual and reproductive health services in 7 cities of India. These cities are New Delhi, Chennai, Bangalore, Jaipur, Ahmedabad, Kolkata and Kohima.

Abortion stigma can often lead to negative consequences for young, single women in need of accessing safe abortion services. There are several challenges that women face starting with lack of information on abortion itself, not knowing where to access services, encountering judgmental provider attitudes and bias, prohibitive cost, and fear due to social norms. These and other factors can push women into vulnerable situations where they opt for unsafe services that put their lives and health at risk.

We were trying to understand the response of young people to sexual and reproductive health in these cities. Did the cities vary in their attitudes to these issues? Were young people able to access these services? Was there a general awareness about these issues related to sexual and reproductive health issue among young people in these cities. These were some of the initial questions that we were working on.

This report is a trailer to our final report about the data collected over 1 year in these 7 cities.

Laws : 

Abortion in India, is mostly covered under Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act,1971. The Act covers a range of situations, in which Indian laws allows a women to access abortion services.

The MTP Act is worded in a way in which the medical termination of pregnancy is based on medical opinion. So there is no on demand abortion in this country. And the MTP Act also lays down the conditions under which the pregnancy can be terminated. A registered medical practitioner can go ahead and terminate the pregnancy only based on medical opinion in the existence of any of these conditions. So in a sense even though since 1971 there is official legal access to termination of pregnancies, it’s not a right. It’s only one judgment of the Bombay High Court that has viewed the existing law from the lens of the woman and has termed it as a right. But the legislature is still not looking at it as a right.

What type of services? 

In our study, we only were focussed about accessing public health services, and at Hidden Pockets Collective, we wanted to promote accessing public health services. In most of the public health sector, there are various type of sexual and reproductive health services provided. Some of the services are :

a) Adolescent friendly Health Services

b) Counselling

c) Medical Termination of pregnancy

d) STI and RTI testing

e) Long term and Short term contraception choices

f) Family Planning methods

Abortion as a right?  

Is Abortion a right? No, not till now.

So what prevents us from making it right?

Abortion can only be accessed by a woman, if the doctor feels like the pregnancy would result in some kind of danger to her life. It still depends on the opinion of the service provider.

Which are some of the centres where abortion services can be accessed access?

  • Public Health Centres
  • Urban Health Centres
  • Community Health Centres
  • District Hospitals
  • Government Hospitals

There does not seem to be much conversations around sexual and reproductive health data in our cities. Even when National Health Policy 2017 was introduced various cities did not account for the young people in their cities. There is no conversations around keeping one’s sensitive data be it abortion data,HIV data within privacy debate.

Hidden Pockets Collective is working on this and effectively will produce a report regarding the affect of sexual and reproductive health data in urban planning. We need young people be seen as change makers and not just end users of exploitative interventions which does not reflect their realities.

We need to understand the habits of young people and consider it within the urban planning of the future smart cities of the global south.