The inauguration of The Literary Society in St Joseph’s College (SJC), took place on 13 June with a conversation on women’s wellness. The panel comprised of Nitya Vasudevan, Kannaki Deka, and Zenisha Gonsalves. The moderator, Prof. Kannaki Deka, read an excerpt from the article, ‘Yes, Your Gynaec’s Thoo-Thoo Chee-Chee Prudery Can Ruin Your Health’, by Zenisha Gonsalves (3rd EJP, SJC), which was published on theladiesfinger.com on 2 June.
The article mainly focused on how gynaecologists judged young, unmarried women when they came in for treatment. Working on the piece for almost a month, Zenisha said, “When you’re working on a piece for so long, at one point, you also get sick of it. But when it was published, it was really nice to see how people responded to the piece.”
As the conversation followed, Zenisha spoke about the doctors she interviewed. Much to her surprise, most of them were very willing to talk about the topic; while a few of them said that they only spoke to journalists they knew. “I got the doctors’ numbers through people I knew who had been to them and I also looked up the HODs or Consultants of OB/GYN departments of hospitals,” she said.
An excerpt from the article:
“Most medical students we spoke to – from colleges in Belgaum, Goa, Mangalore, Hyderabad, and Manipal – say that they are taught to ask women whether they’re married or unmarried, but are taught not to ask whether they’re sexually active. In the same breath, they all say that they’re also taught not to distinguish between married and unmarried women, in their treatment. However, as many women were quick to observe, “Are you married?” is the Indian stand-in for, “Are you sexually active?”
Prof Kannaki referred to how Zenisha’s article had been plagiarised by The Hindu. “There was a chunk of what I had written in The Hindu. They had just copy pasted from the article,” Zenisha said.
The uncertainty she had to face was to decide the way in which she would portray the doctors. Commenting on this she said, “This article would be read by the people about whom I was writing. I did not want to portray the gynaecologists only as the bad guys because that would just be unhelpful.”
When the discussion just had caught audience’s complete attention, “Is marriage the gateway for being sexually active?” asked Nitya Vasudevan, Course Convener at Baduku Community College. She showed a couple of minutes of ‘Something like a War,’ a 1991 documentary directed by Deepa Dhanraj. The documentary focused on the forced sterilisations of women in India — especially in Rajasthan — and on the opinions of Indian women on these programs. According to the documentary, many women were promised either money or a place to stay if they found other women for the same procedure. However, these promises were never fulfilled. The purpose for sterilising these women was believed to be to support the family planning programme. In the documentary, a doctor said that he had operated on more than 2000 such women that year, claiming that it was easy to perform and that he could now do it in forty five seconds.
The discussion ended with an exceptional response from the audience. Most of them being college students, they talked about their experiences of visiting gynaecologist, of writing about their bodies, and the responses of their families.