The truth about sex and young people: my experiences in India


Jemma is an intern at IPPF’s SARO office and is working on Youth Volunteer Engagement. Originally from Scotland, she has a passion for human rights and loves living in Delhi. 

I first arrived in Delhi in July 2012. As a politics graduate I decided to move to Delhi to work and learn about women’s rights, as well as experience living in another country.

Completely scared out of my wits in this crazy, busy, noisy city the last thing I expected from my time here was to end up in a relationship, and having to manage my sexual and reproductive health in a new country. Back home, I have been quite used to having access to a free public healthcare system including contraceptives, sexual health check-ups, and even abortion. In India, I found things were a lot less taken for granted, and something as simple as buying a pack of condoms could be an awkward situation for me - I'd seek out pharmacies where the condoms were stocked on shelves rather than under the counter to avoid an uncomfortable exchange.

Like in many parts of the world, there is a culture of silence around sexuality - especially women’s sexuality. It is not easy to walk into a clinic and ask for sexual and reproductive health care services.

On one occasion, my partner and I had unprotected sex while I was on antibiotics. I had learned, through the course of my own sex education that the use of antibiotics can diminish the effectiveness of the contraceptive pill, and I feared an unintended pregnancy. Not only that, but the thought of buying a pregnancy testing kit made me feel uncomfortable as back home we would just go to the nearest medical practice, or Genitourinary Medicine Clinic (GUM Clinic) for a free, no-judgment pregnancy test.

Fortunately, my boyfriend offered to go and buy the test kit, he didn’t seem to mind too much, he even asked the staff for recommendations on which kit to purchase! This was one time when I really needed a comforting hand and a safe space and, thankfully through working with IPPF, I have learned about the clinics run by the Family Planning Association of India which provide counseling on family planning and other sexual and reproductive health services including abortion. Knowing this is a relief both for myself, and other young people that may find themselves in a similar situation.