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Rubber penis in Maharashtra’s family planning kits sparks row

ASHA workers face flak from villagers; BJP asks govt to recall the kits

Representative image| PTI Representative image| PTI

A rubber penis in the special kit used by local health workers to spread awareness on family planning has led to a controversy in Maharashtra with the opposition alleging that it would embarrass the women who conduct the door-to-door campaign. The rubber penis was included in the kit to demonstrate how to put on a condom during sex.

Earlier, the ASHA (Accredited Social Health Activists) workers had used pamphlets and booklets with pictorial presentations to educate people about sex and birth control. However, this time, the Public Health Department revamped the family planning kit and introduced tools for practical representation— replicas of a uterus and a phallus.

Interestingly, nobody has taken offence at the mould of uterus.

Around 25,000 kits with the new tools have already been distributed across the state. Dr Archana Patil, director of Maharashtra's public health department, claimed the model of penis has received negative feedback from only one district, Buldhana.

“This [kit] helps ASHA workers to demonstrate the usage. It is included along with other family planning methods. This is especially important for newly-married couples who need much more awareness. Through the tools, the ASHAs can also demonstrate the process of wearing condoms," Patel told The Indian Express.

There have been reports that the women health workers, who have been assigned with the task of counseling the couples in rural areas of the state, are facing flak from village men because of the stigmatization of sex.

“As soon as we take out the mould, the family members, especially the men, take offence because of stigmatisation. They claim that we are shameless and corrupting their wives,” an ASHA worker told the Express.

The BJP has demanded that the government immediately withdraw these kits and apologise to health workers. Chitra Wagh, BJP vice president in the state, even alleged that the government was promoting “sexual indulgence”.

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