Sita was distraught. She felt cheated. She expected her first night to be as exciting as the descriptions in novels. But nothing happened that night. Her husband could not rise to the occasion. Ravi complained of pain in the penis while attempting to enter her. Leave alone first night, the entire week was a disaster. They consulted a doctor, who suggested circumcision as Ravi had phimosis in which the foreskin is tight and does not roll back. This was the cause of Ravi’s pain.
“You have cheated me. You never told me (before marriage) that you had the problem,” Sita accused Ravi. “But Sita, I also did not know that I had this problem,” Ravi explained. “Don’t lie to me, you and your family cheated us,” Sita responded angrily.
The Ravi-Sita story is happening in many a new marriage.
While Sita’s anger is understandable, Ravi is equally aggrieved. He never knew that he had phimosis as he was not taught to pull his penile foreskin back and clean it. Genital hygiene was not explained to him, neither at home nor at school. The focus of medical check-ups in schools is on infectious diseases and vision. Boys and girls, thus, grow up without any knowledge about their sexual status.
Till about a decade ago warring couples used to approach family courts for legal separation. The girl’s family would press for declaring the marriage null and void. This will tell the community that her marriage was not consummated. The boy would contest this as the dissolution of marriage on grounds of impotence will make it difficult for him to get another bride. Nowadays, the cases are being filed in High Court under section 420 of IPC which is more serious and has far-reaching implications.
While deliberately hiding one’s sexual inadequacy should not be condoned, in our country where discussion about sexuality is either non-existent or superficial, ignorance looms large. Prevention in the sexual context is almost always associated with measures to prevent sexually-transmitted infections. The fact is that it is much more than this.
There are many treatable conditions like phimosis and undescended testes which can be rectified easily, preferably before marriage. Conditions like absence of or atrophied testes, hypospadias (a birth defect of the penile urinary passage where the opening is on the undersurface of the penis) and epispadias (the urinary opening is on the upper part of the penis) can be detected by a doctor through physical examination. In all these, the feasibility of corrections and implications can be discussed with a medical professional. It is the moral obligation of the man to disclose this to his prospective bride. Similarly, any genital abnormality, menstrual irregularity or hormonal deficiency which may impact fertility can be detected during a premarital medical check-up. They can be either corrected or disclosed to the prospective groom.
Psychological conditions like performance anxiety and performance demands in a man and vaginismus and fear of penetration in a woman can prevent the consummation of the marriage. These conditions can be easily managed with counselling and therapy. Instead of blaming each other and their families, a resolution of the problem should be sought with an open mind.
A healthy marriage should be built on trust. If it begins with distrust and a sense of betrayal, then the marriage is doomed.
It all boils down to action taken at home and school, sex education and recognising that sex and sexual health are important topics that need to be discussed.