“My body is that power, into which I absorb all the energies of the universe. It’s that solace, into which I look for deeper meanings. My body is that truth, I am not ashamed of. It’s the compliment I wear with pride. My body is what I accept as definite. It’s my right to be essentially ‘ME’. I refuse to confine my body within social barricades, I refuse to define its borders by pointless measurements. I refuse to curb the fire that sets me ablaze, in the most withering nights, in the coldest of days. No curtains hide me, no sheets overlap. I am capable beyond measures, not just a woman a man can have. My choices are purely mine, my decisions self-made. I don’t live in denial, I relish what it takes – Whatever it takes to be a complete ‘Woman’.”
Why should anyone be ever ashamed of the most basic choices one makes, physically, mentally or emotionally? Aren’t we all born with a liberty to be ‘Real’ (As real as vulnerable, as real as sensual, or, as real as emotional)? Why our defense mechanism gets alert, every time, someone refuses to agree or challenge our ideology? Why, as humans, we cannot be more accepting? The above may have been said in the tone of a ‘woman’, but, it has a profound voice with an intimate effect encapsulating all genders and even those who choose not to associate with one.
Today’s story is unique and empowering in its own account, because, it’s about a woman who is determined to break the silence or the ‘hushes’ that revolves around our body and get pleasure on the table to talk about sexual and reproductive health and rights through her platform ‘Love Matters’. Please meet Vithika Yadav, the driving force behind Love Matters India and, an anti-trafficking and anti-slavery specialist. Based in Delhi, she’s a passionate human rights activist. She believes that getting sex out in the open can help end a lot of misery caused by sexual violence or harassment – and can bring us all a lot of pleasure!
“There are so many taboos that we live with when we talk about sexual and reproductive health and rights. From masturbation to body image to virginity to abortion…the list is quite full. And frankly, this is not just about India but many other parts of the world.”
(as told to Nakedtruth)
It’s all stemmed from an ‘equal parenting’
Vithika belongs to Alwar, Rajasthan. She has grown up in a boarding school. The key to her exceptional understanding of human emotions stems from her roots, her parents who believed in equality. Living in an environment that encouraged ‘having opinions’, ‘asking questions’, ‘fighting for self and for the right’, she learnt how one needs to stand up for oneself, and challenge and question harmful norms in the society. She was given the freedom to be as ‘real’ as possible. While most of us in early tender age get stuck in the cobweb of doubt, Vithika took it as an opportunity to question the stereotypes.
“I do believe, that, to a large extent our attitudes are molded directly and indirectly by our life experiences. At an early age, my parents taught me to care about justice, respect, and equality. They gave me the space to argue, question and voice my opinion. These experiences helped me make connection between my own life experiences and larger social issues in the society.”
– Vithika Yadav (as told to Huffington Post)
Inside ‘Love Matters’
Love Matters is an open digital space where individuals can have the most intimate discussions in a judgment-free manner. It’s a space that allows people to be vocal about their needs and how they can access much needed and critical information on sexual health and sexuality related issues using internet and mobile phones. As human beings, we all have the right to explore and understand our bodies, recognize that we are all different and every individual’s body is special and unique in its own way, but, why is it that many of us end up feeling guilty or ashamed because of questions and concerns we have in this context? It’s because of ‘inadequate knowledge’ which comes affiliated to the harmful norms and stereotypes prevalent in our society, which does not allow open conversations around sex, relationships, body image, or, where virginity is the testament of one’s character, where motherhood is often not a choice but a solution bridging gaps in a relationship.
Vithika (The Country Head of Love Matters) and her team aims to fix the crucifying impact on individuals who are deprived of the most basic knowledge or rights about their body. Love Matters divulges itself into an assortment of carefully chosen subjects ranging from Sexual Diversity to Making Love, from Birth Control to Pregnancy, from Marriage to Safe Sex. It also allows individuals to share their experiences, ask questions, share concerns live through the discussion forum ‘Let’s Talk’.
Let me take you through the space granularly…
- Love & Relationships: Human beings are natural feelers, they have a strong sense of belonging which comes from within. We meet people and little things about one another attract us, connect us and we develop a bond. Sometimes this bond turns into a lasting relationship, sometimes not. But, as humans we often fail to understand the space and independence that drives each relationship. Sometimes, saying a simple ‘NO’ or dealing with rejection becomes difficult, sometimes expressing oneself becomes tough, sometimes, one wants to ‘just explore’ what it takes to be in a relationship. Love Matters makes it easy for you by giving you possible solutions to all such complexities.
- Our Bodies: Our body is our biggest asset, it is how we ‘invest’ in it. Love Matters takes one through the most intricate details of one’s body, specifically the reproductive set. It answers some of the most important yet ‘shied away’ questions for e.g. What is circumcision? Is masturbation unhealthy? What should be done to maintain reproductive hygiene? What is vaginal dryness? Love Matters ensures ‘knowledge’ leading to safe decision-making.
- Sexual Diversity and Making Love: One way humanity will see more love than hatred is when people start embracing differences and celebrating uniqueness. Sexual Diversity shouldn’t be questioned rather learnt and adhered to. Love Matters talks about the beauty of sexual diversity by addressing various issues pertaining to sexual orientation and gender diversity. Making Love is another important aspect, you know, Sex is an art form, loved and appreciated, but wrongly interpreted. The beauty of making love lies in its process and most of us do it the wrong way.
- Birth Control and Pregnancy: Motherhood is a beautiful experience, they say, it completes a woman. In India, however, if you dig deeper, you will find motherhood to sometimes be a ‘forced decision’ for many women. Why? Yes, it completes a woman only if it is ‘by choice’, only if, it complies to her sense of decision-making. Motherhood should not be used as a bridge to mend broken relationships, or as a ladder to be socially more acceptable, or, as a simple need satisfying the biological clock. Yes, sometime pregnancies can go unplanned, but that should not deter a woman from deciding what is right for her and the baby. This is the time to show strength and talk about it to your partner, to share your apprehensions. Love Matters consciously prepares one for that, how it feels to be pregnant, what precautionary steps one can take to have a healthy pregnancy, if it is unplanned, what are the possible options, what are the birth control methods and most important advocating for every woman’s right to access safe and legal abortion.
- Safe Sex: Sex is powerful and an integral part of one’s life. The idea of sex should be enjoyment amalgamated with a sense of responsibility. It should rather make one feel happy, secure and devoted, than, invite anxiety. When you practice safe sex, you exhibit mindfulness and an infallible sensitivity towards your partner, giving him or her an equal right to be involved. More than unwanted pregnancy or STI, practicing safe sex should be a conscious choice of an informed mind.
In the era that we live in, exposure to technology is ineluctable with information flowing in from all dimensions. In such a scenario, one needs to thrive on platforms that are authentic and holistic in approach. Love Matters is one such platform, it encourages one to be more aware of one’s body needs and more responsible towards the choices one makes to satisfy those needs.
Beating ‘the odds’
Women talking about ‘sex’ or ‘pleasure’ may seem significantly rare but it’s a brave finding. Women like Vithika Yadav give voice to several who wish to come out of their closet, who wish to acknowledge their REAL self or live fearlessly. Love Matters is not just an organization but a much-needed space, a mission that we need to be a part of as a step towards a safer, a happier, a more inclusive and informed world.