What is Health Over Stigma?
Health Over Stigma is a revolutionary campaign led by young, unmarried women in New Delhi to dismantle 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.
The campaign, spearheaded by Haiyya, a campaigning non-profit based in New Delhi, is now joining hands with Feminism in India to catalyze public commitments from institutions such as hospitals, ministries and other relevant health actors to update their code of conduct. We want unmarried women around the country to share their first-person experiences of stigma faced at the gynaecologist using the hashtag #MyGynaecStory to build legitimacy around the issue, so we can hold medical service providers accountable.
Haiyya along with its partners FII, Asia Safe Abortion Partnership, IIITD, Jhatkaa.org, Love Matters India, My Body, My Choice, Sachhi Saheli and Safe Access is building a community of women in India who drive online and offline conversations in key states on devising informed strategies that improve access to sexual health services and combat stigma.
Why are we doing this?
As a demographic, unmarried women are completely invisible in the domain of SRHR in India. Due to societal biases and shame, they de-prioritize their sexual health needs and refrain from accessing services.
Results from a survey Haiyya conducted with young and unmarried women suggested that as low as 1% of women received information on sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) from their mothers, doctors or government campaigns. And 53% of these women felt unsure if the sexual health problems they faced were severe enough to visit a gynaecologist. Within the Indian context and patriarchal system, any conversation around young women’s sexuality is limited and stigmatised. Shame and stigma particularly impact unmarried women who end up delaying abortions and often resort to backdoor clinics putting their lives at risk. As low as 20% of the unmarried women Haiyya surveyed, knew about the abortion law in India, and 95% had never visited a gynaecologist to take consultation on sex, pleasure or contraception.
When they try to consult doctors, they are often denied services, misinformed or coerced into decisions. It is this stigma and narrative we are challenging through our initiative at Haiyya called Health Over Stigma.
How can you participate?
Here is how you can join the #MyGynaecStory wave:
1. Write to us with an 800-1000 word article with your experiences at the gynaecologist. Email firstname.lastname@example.org with your submissions with the subject #MyGynaecStory.
2. Post about your experience on your own social media handles. Use the hashtag #MyGynaecStory (note the spelling of gynAEc!) so we can find it. If it’s a private post, send us a screenshot on our social media direct messages.
3. Start conversations about unmarried women’s sexual and reproductive healthcare in your circles! Talk about it with your family, text about it in your Whatsapp groups. Send FII screenshots (with everyone’s consent!) on our social media direct messages if you wish!