Editor’s Note: This piece has been published as a part of the Health Over Stigma campaign, which is aimed at dismantling the stigma surrounding sexual health of unmarried women, and demanding accountability from medical service providers for stigma-free, non-judgemental sexual and reproductive healthcare services. Join the #MyGynaecStory wave by sharing your own story as an unmarried woman accessing sexual and reproductive healthcare by posting it on your social media or emailing us.
Posted by Akanksha
In September, I visited my gynaecologist for the first time after having sex because I was having some issues with my menstrual cycles. I didn’t go before because I was always scared of it, considering the taboo that surrounds it. I had visited her two months before with my mother, when I still didn’t have sex. I asked my mother to go out so I could have some private conversation with my gynaecologist. I discussed about contraceptives, pills, their effect on my body with her and she was cool about that. I also asked her to keep it private, to which she readily agreed. I concluded that she is non-judgemental and I could be open with her.
However, the tables turned soon when I went to her post-having sex. I thought I must be honest with her about everything. I started with telling her that I have had sex and a few times, thrice to be specific, I took the emergency contraceptive pill. She took an unheard gasp, and taunted me at ‘my’ carelessness as if I was the only one in the act. I continued to ask her the reasons of my irregular bleeding. Without any further questions, she blamed it on me and said that it happened so because of the pills I took (I am still unsure about it though).
To confirm, I asked her twice if it really were the pills, but got reprimanded each time for it. I gulped the insults and inquired about the solution to this. She gave me a bunch of tablets and with that also told me that now that I have made the “mistake” and I would have to deal with the repercussions of it too. This didn’t stop here. For the future, I also inquired about other contraceptives, apart from condoms, that I can access so that I don’t face such a situation again. She said something about “morning after” pills, and since I wasn’t going to have sex regularly, I asked her for some other methods of contraception.
So, she wouldn’t prescribe the pills but would suggest to not have sex. If I want to have sex ‘that bad’ I must get married.
I asked if she could prescribe me the pills, whenever I need them. This instigated a fire in her and she lashed out at me saying that she is a mother of two daughters (so?) and as a mother she wouldn’t like her daughters to indulge in sex before marriage. So, she wouldn’t prescribe the pills but would suggest to not have sex. If I want to have sex ‘that bad’ I must get married. I was shocked and was processing all of this. I meekly replied that I am an adult and it is my choice to have or not have it.
I was again told that, if I am an adult and can get married, why not do it and then get in bed with someone? And that, all of this is very normal and accepted in the Western culture, but not in India. In America (she was specific about it), girls could have sex and not face consequences (I didn’t understand how) but in India it is considered a shame. If I supposedly get pregnant before marriage, the guy will have the free will to leave me and my parents won’t accept me. I will be left with a baby for doom, and this will affect my and my family’s image in the society. She then asked me to be protected from the Western culture. It was my first time when someone (who doesn’t even have an authority) was giving lectures about what I did was wrong. My mental health at that time was fragile, so I blamed myself for all of what happened. She, as a “mother-ly figure”, advised me to get married if I wanted to have sex. I took the prescription and left the room.
It was my first time when someone (who doesn’t even have an authority) was giving lectures about what I did was wrong. My mental health at that time was fragile, so I blamed myself for all of what happened. She, as a “mother-ly figure”, advised me to get married if I wanted to have sex.
When I was going back home, my hands and legs were shaking and I couldn’t utter a sentence to save my life. The two days after this were horrible and all I could think about was this encounter and cursed myself for having sex. She used the possibility of infertility in future more as a threat and not as a mere possibility. As if, if I would be infertile, the reason of my existence would vanish. However, I came over it after some time and didn’t quite get (I still don’t) why the label is made compulsory and necessary to decide the boundaries of intimacy. I don’t understand how can someone get so heartless and indifferent to a patient who is already in the midst of negative physiological changes and drive them to the point that they start associating their self-worth to the number of times they got in bed with men.
I still quite blame and abuse myself for doing it because whatever happens would be to me; the men with whom I had it are safe and secure, while I have to bear all the brunt of physical changes, patriarchy and insults. I feel it is highly unfair to have gynaecologists like her; aren’t doctors supposed to be kind and soft at heart? Then, why do we still have people like her who seek emotional abuse as the method to make people accept the patriarchal notions. I feel bad and empathetic for other women who go to her and get told to get married to access sexual health services. If she behaved like this with me, I am sure she would be the same with them. I still haven’t visited her post that session, even though I must, because my issues are still not resolved. But, circumstances have instilled a fear in me and I am afraid to go back to her for any consultation.
Akanksha is usually found reading in cafés, singing loudly in metro with earphones plugged in, and writing about anything and everything that comes her way. She is too dependent on chai and her glasses to survive. You can find her on Instagram.
Featured Image Source: The Record Nepal
Illustration by Shraddha Devkota