Sampada Gramin Mahila Sanstha


People should believe that they can change things. It is not about a few activists fighting for other people’s rights. Anybody who has imbibed this understanding should be able to go and fight for their rights.

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“We never say yes to sex without a condom,” says Shabana , a peer educator from the tobacco growing area of Nippani in Karnataka.” There are times when clients have asked for their money back. But we have learnt that pyar, muhabbat se sab sunte hain( everyone understands love)”.

No Condoms No Sex

Women in prostitution and sex work have had to devise various innovative methods of making their clients use condoms. Some of them pick up gruesome pictorial images of STDs from the SANGRAM office to show their clients. Others are able to predict – and challenge – the reason clients may offer to not wear condoms. For instance, the negotiation always rests on the fact that the women will ‘offer more’ in terms of pleasure if the men listen to them.

Shabana describes a typical effort at condom negotiation with a married client in her earthy tones. Shabana to client : “I don’t know if I have AIDS or not.... but you think of your wife and kids. “Client to Shabana : “ but the fun is in body on body”. Shabana : “ Mazaa to do minit ka rehta hai ( fun is for two minutes only), but if you use a condom the rest of your life can be enjoyed. If your two minutes of pleasure are reduced by 5% , what is the big deal?”

While explaining the negotiating strategies to younger and new women Noorie always uses the story where in she narrates her experience, “When he is excited, all you have to do is drop your pallu, and he will be in no state to refuse wearing a condom”.

Responsible sex

The concept of sex that VAMP promotes in the time of HIV is one of “ responsible sex”, rather than safer sex. This concept springs from the overall notion of taking responsibility for one self and ones actions. Responsible sex is a gamut of things that together constitute a way of life. ‘It is responsibility to yourself that makes you ensure you use a condom every time you have penetrative sex’. This is the motto that VAMP works with, responsible sex is not a moral concept, but a concept that encompasses more human dimensions than safe sex.

Lovers and malaks

Although condoms are used with paying customers, they are not always used with maalaks or lovers, pimps, male brothel –owners and the police, who still have the power to refuse a condom. Condoms are a barrier, even figuratively, and many women feel the need to differentiate between a client and a lover – the presence or absence of a condom denotes that difference.

Adolescents and young people

Most of this group who are just experimenting with their newfound sexuality refuse to use condoms. “They are more 'educated' but their urgent need to learn and experiment is impaired by the condom”, is a common complaint by most women in the program.

Trivialized phallus

Women in the communities have trivialized the phallus and male sexual control through jokes and stories that constitute part of a popular whore culture. In reality, the popular image of the golden hearted tawaif, or the vicious vamp is closely entwined with the total irreverence to the concept of male sexual power. Women weave stories that talk of control rather than oppression by the phallus When asked about the trivialization of the female body for Rs. 20, women from VAMP retorted that they believe that they actualy trivialize the phallus for Rs. 20.

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