Contraceptives. A most basic concept, a plain and simple word. But we in India are fearful of uttering it. People look around while talking about it. Yes, even now. How well do we know our contraceptives? And why should we really know them? I decided to go out into the streets to find out what people knew about contraceptives. I went to a populous area, where you find youngsters and adults all alike – Church Street in Bangalore. The hub of drinking, partying, and clubbing.

Many still believe that sex is a taboo topic in India, and there is definitely a need to talk about it more openly.

I met with a lot of young people willing to talk about the subject – but they knew very less about what contraceptive methods were available to them. Almost all young people said that condoms were their choice of contraceptives. Although many mentioned the iPill (brand of emergency contraceptive pill) and the birth control pill, they didn’t know the difference between the two. They had this knowledge because of TV advertisements. Some even mentioned IUDs such as copper T’s but knew little or nothing more than the name. When asked how a copper T is used – all they knew was it was supposed to be inserted inside the female body.

Surprisingly, most young women said that they had some form of sex education when they were in 9th or 10th grade. They said that a gynaecologist came and spoke to them about their period and told them about contraceptive measures, but didn’t go into detail. It was more about the biology of menstruation. I also came across a group of German girls, and thought it would be nice to talk to them about this, and compare their experience in Germany with the sex education in India. They told me that in Germany, sex education starts as young as 3rd grade. They are taught about menstruation, sex, contraceptives and more. They are encouraged to talk about, and make presentations on the same. They are also taught about homosexuality. Germany, like many other developed countries, provides free birth control measures till a citizen is 18 years old. This includes but is not limited to birth control pills, condoms and IUDs.

Women in 30s said that they first heard about contraceptives only before they got married, when they had a conversation with their mums or cousins. 

I also spoke to a few Indian women who were in their mid to late 30s. They told me that they first heard about contraceptives only before they got married, when they had a conversation with their mums or cousins. One lady said that she had gotten a tubectomy after the birth of her child, but she wasn’t comfortable talking on camera.

Everyone that I met on the streets of Bangalore, I asked them one last question. ‘What is the state of sex education in India?’ The answer was unanimous. Sex education in India is a ‘need’. Many mentioned that sex crimes in India have shot up in the last decade, and that the government should really intervene and set up sex education classes in schools, especially in rural areas (where people have little or no knowledge). When I asked the group of German girls the same question, I heard them chant one word – ‘non-existent‘. Many still believe that sex is a taboo topic in India, and there is definitely a need to talk about it more openly.

Here are a few observations I made, after my day out interviewing people:

  • Younger people are more open to talking about contraceptives and sex on camera than people who are in their mid-30s or 40s

  • Although everyone knew what contraceptives were, most didn’t have a comprehensive knowledge of the options available to them

  • Almost everyone I met said that there is a need to talk about sex more openly in India

  • Condoms were the popular contraceptive measures (as they are easily available, and there are lots of ads on TV)

  • Women in their late 30s and early 40s (who were married and had kids) knew much more about contraceptive methods, especially about long term contraceptive methods such as IUDs, vasectomies and tubectomies, but they weren’t comfortable talking about it on camera