Sadhus and condoms: Why NGOs might want to promote safe sex in Kumbh Melas
news Saturday, July 04, 2015 - 05:30
The Maharashtra State Aids Control Society recently expressed fear in the run-up to the Kumbh Mela due to the shortage of condoms. A report in The Times of India mentions that the MSAC harboured fears of the spread of HIV and AIDS due to their shortage. Nearly a crore people are expected to make their way to Nashik for the Kumbh which begins on July 14 but what could be asked is why the need for condoms in the first place? Aside from spreading awareness about STDs and the problems associated with unprotected sex, an HT report makes another point. It mentions that the Kumbhs generally attract a large number of sex workers from different parts of the country who come to â€śwash away their sinsâ€ť. The TOI report adds that Nashik has an estimated 2000 female sex workers, 560 men-having-sex-with-men (MSM) and there were over a lakh migrants in the district which required close to 1.5-2 lakh condoms a month. â€śAs there is virtually no stock left for free distribution from the government, the customers may refrain from buying condoms. This might increase chances of infection. It is also not possible for all sex workers to buy contraceptives for safe sex because of their meager income,â€ť Kuldeep Pawar, the project manager of the Female Sex Workers Targeted Intervention at Pravara Medical Institute, told the newspaper. Trials related to condoms for the Kumbh melas is seemingly not old. The mechanism to protect STDs and lessen pro-creation has found its place at Kumbhs for several years. A report from 2004 mentions that the state-run AIDS control society from Ujjain had run into trouble with fringe elements that year for their plans of distributing condoms at the Kumbh. Calling for a ban on their distribution, a Swami was quoted as saying that â€śevil condomsâ€ť would pollute the holy city. The article also mentions that sadhus and mahants wanted the nearby red-light area removed as they feared it would lead to â€śdepravityâ€ť. There are several reports of condoms being distributed at the Kumbh and even the â€śBindaas Bol Campaignâ€ť for the productâ€™s awareness was promoted at the Ardh Kumbh at Allahabad in 2006. The campaign was supposedly also about enlightening sex workers about the STDs and the ills of unprotected sex but many saints have found it repulsive due to the celibate life they lead.Â
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