Pop Culture, Sex Ed

Let’s talk About Sex, Bhaabi!

Let’s talk About Sex, Bhaabi!

-Navya Sriram 


How Stigma around Sexual Health affects Young Women

In India, a conversation about sex, or sexual health usually follows the theme of

 “yeh galat hai, isse dur raho, bina baat ke questions mat pucho.” 

Essentially, sex is the biggest taboo in Indian culture. Ask yourself this, when was the last time you didn’t utter the word “sex” without whispering it or lowering your decibel level a few notches?

Exactly. Never. 

There is an obvious lack of conversation and discussion around this topic, and whatever little dialogue is there usually has negative connotations.

Throughout our lives, especially as women the only true education we have received that is even moderately sex positive, has nothing to do with us. In Indian society sex exists solely for two things: To please a man, and to have (male) babies. 

It almost seems like there is only danger, sickness, shame and dishonour associated with consensual sex. This, aside from contributing to the largely uninformed population and lack of awareness regarding reproductive health has some serious repercussions for young women. 

To understand this better, lets revisit some of the anecdotes we usually hear about sex in an Indian household

     1. Virginity is pure and should be saved for marriage/ Honourable girls guard their hymen for their husbands

Ah, yes. This statement truly embodies power dynamics of Indian culture. Ma, Papa, Sanskaar, Bhagwaan, aur Ladki ki izzat. 

Virginity is looked at like some pure, untainted secret that is reserved only for its rightful owner, your husband. This may sound trivial and unimportant, but it steals a woman of her right to her own body, and is denied it totally. Her “honour” is actually her family’s, and God forbid something happens, if she is “violated”, she will be blamed. This notion also villianizes people who have sex outside of marriage, and discourages women of exploring their own body as well, and suggests that they should be ashamed of it. 

     2. Marriage is automatic consent

This is the worst possible idea. This concept is so normalised in India, that marital rape is legal, in the sense it is not considered possible. This essentially gives men a free pass to exploit their wives and if she objects, is shamed by her own family. The mental and physical trauma that victims of marital rape suffer is unimaginable, and yet again women are discouraged from having any control over their own bodies. 

     3. Masturbation is downright shameful

Seeing a theme here yet? Women are discouraged from exploring and enjoying their own bodies. This natural instinct has been portrayed in a negative light and it’s almost like it’s in our evolutionary biology to feel shameful if we have any sort of sexual desires. Young women are not even aware that they can physically masturbate. That is a testimony of how little of a conversation we have around such concepts. For some reason Indian society is just not ready to face the fact that women can have uninhibited control over their own bodies, and experience sexual desire or pleasure. 

     4. If a man attempts to sexually violate you, it is your own fault

This explains a lot about how Indian parents warn their daughters daily. 

“Aise kapde mat peheno”

“Raat tak bahar mat raho”

“Bhaiyya ko saath le chalo”

“Aankhein neeche”

Girls as old as age 8 know all of these warnings, and for older women, they hit a little too close to home. We are taught, from a young age, that we will be sexualised. That we have to do everything we can to not be victims. Boys, however, are encouraged to walk around as if they own every woman within a 5 metre radius of themselves. Haven’t you heard? “Boys will be boys!”

This culture of victim blaming is extremely toxic. It leads to any woman blaming herself for everything,

“I shouldn’t have worn that”

“I shouldn’t have walked on that road”

“Maybe I should have just said yes”

These kind of thoughts or beliefs are a result of putting women down so much, that they are afraid to call out their abusers. They have been taught that it is always their fault and that they could have prevented it. In cases of rape, they are even discouraged from having abortions, having a choice.


These are just a few of the many, many dangerously normal things that are told to us as women on a daily basis. The impact? Crushing.

Results from a survey with young and unmarried women suggest that as low as 1% of women have received information on sexual and reproductive health and rights from their mothers, doctors or government campaigns. Millions of women go through their life carrying trauma from being sexually harassed. We are deprived of any education about our own bodies. We barely are able to register that we have bodies.

The problem stems right from how we talk about sex. From there, it extends to social, political and legal commentary about it. Right from our early schooling years, the only information we are given is about sex, purely in its reproductive function, as the teacher whispers through the chapter. We are never introduced to masturbation, sexual health, consent or even sexuality.

There is no mention of sex that isnt heteronormative, and no conversations about homosexuality. 

This ultimately also shows in our legal system, where there are gaping holes regarding policies and laws against rape, sexual harassment, domestic violence, marital rape and more. There is nothing to bridge the gap in the education or awareness that we as women need. 

This is what we, at Manzuri, strive to do. We recognize that there is a dearth of information regarding sexual health, pleasure positivity, masturbation and other such topics. As an organization we want to break the stigma around sex health, especially for women in India by introducing them to information and resources to help them take ownership of their bodies. We understand the importance of furthering the dialogue of sex positivity, and take pride in the role we play in it.