Health Over Stigma, a campaign by Haiyya, uses technology and community circles to collect data and build up the case for safe and stigma-free access to sexual and reproductive health services for young unmarried women.Within the Indian context and patriarchal setup of the society, any conversation around young women’s sexuality is curbed and stigmatised. Sexual and reproductive health is primarily centered around married women and maternal care, making discussions around unmarried women invisible.
This massively impacts the way unmarried women view their sexual health needs often deprioritizing them and not even accessing services. Results from our most recent survey with unmarried women suggest that as low as 1% of women have received information on sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) from their mothers, doctors or government campaigns. And 53% of these women feel unsure if the sexual health problems they faced were severe enough to visit a gynaecologist. Through stories and conversation we had with women, we learned that when they access services, they are often denied services, misinformed or coerced into decisions and unable to make informed choices in their self interest, thus marginalising them.Over the past year of our on-ground work, doctors and health providers we engaged with claimed to have been providing safe and stigma free services. There is massive gap in perceptions between unmarried women and health providers, gap in demand and supply of these services, which needs uncovering to design effective ways to increase stigma free access for unmarried women. In short, apart from our own work, there is no data available on this issue with this community. As a cultural issue rooted in structural inequalities there is a need to empower women to open discussion on this issue, uncover stories and data around their fears, barriers and challenges that prohibit access to sexual and reproductive health.
We are building a community of women who catalyse/drive an online conversation in India demanding for safe and stigma free access to sexual and reproductive health services for unmarried women. Creating urgency and uplifting the issue in public discourse will lead to society at large holding service providers accountable enabling an environment that respects bodily autonomy and women making informed choices that are in their self interest.