KATHMANDU, Nov 28: Dinesh*, now 28, was 22 when he bought his first condom from a pharmacy near his girlfriend’s place.
“It’s normal to be nervous when you buy such things,” he says, adding, “I found that the person on the other end of the counter doesn’t make any judgmental preconceived notion about you.”
Dinesh now thinks that buying a condom from a store is not big a deal and feels that people overrate the simple process.
“People have a habit of thinking too much,” he opines. “The pharmacist probably has dealt with hundreds of customers who come asking for contraceptives, and hence, it should be a normal thing for him, nothing that should startle or amaze him.”
However, he is well aware of the social stigma attached to a young person buying contraceptives as it implies that the person will be engaging in sexual practices which, unless the person is married, is still considered a taboo in the society we live in.
He also recalls that the first time he went to buy himself a condom he was much more comfortable with the fact that the pharmacist was a man.
“I think, as a man, I felt more at ease to be dealing with another man and I guess it’s the same for women. They are more comfortable with buying contraceptives from another woman,” he guesses.
Dinesh, on occasions, has also voluntarily bought contraceptives for his girlfriend because she felt uncomfortable.
Sarina*, a 23-year-old student, who has been sexually active recently after her boyfriend came back from abroad, shares that the first time she required an emergency contraceptive pill, she asked her boyfriend to get her one.
“I didn’t want to buy it myself, at least not for the first time, because both my boyfriend and I weren’t aware of what it was exactly called. I knew there was a pill that could be used within 48 hours in case of unpredicted mistakes during sexual intercourse. I didn’t want to interact much with the pharmacist and hence I sent my boyfriend to talk to the pharmacist and get me an iPill,” says Sarina.
Even when she went to buy contraceptives on her own, she shares that she was very conscious and scared.
“I made sure that I went to a pharmacy which was far away from where I lived,” she says. Similar to what Dinesh said, she also expressed that she was more comfortable buying contraceptive from a person of her sex. “Even then, I felt as if the person was acting different and judging me,” shares Sarina.
She is completely liberal about her views regarding young and unmarried people having sexual relationship. Yet the fact that the society views the same thing as a ‘big wrong’ affects the way she behaves and feels such when it comes to taking that necessary step of being safe during and after sexual intercourse.
“You have to find a way to get hold of contraceptives if you plan to have sexual intercourse. If it means you have to buy it on your own, go for it, no matter how awkward you feel,” Sarina emphasizes, that it’s extremely important to have safe sex, and in case of any mishaps, take the necessary steps to prevent unwanted pregnancy before it’s too late.
A first for Nepal when it opened, a store selling some 150 different varieties of condoms and also sex toys, Condom House has established itself in a space in Khicha Pokhari in Kathamndu. Established three years ago, Condom House caters to a daily turnover of 200 youth alone.
“Our customers are mainly young people,” shares Bibek Neupane, the salesperson. The store is owned by his brother, Yuvraj Neupane. “Most of our customers are male but we have about 10 per cent of female customers who come to buy contraceptives here,” he adds.
If it is the first time that someone is buying a contraceptive, then Bibek shares that some first timers feel awkward or embarrassed while asking for a condom.
“But, we talk to them nicely and give them advice on what type of condom to use, as per their need. If the person doesn’t know how to use a condom properly, we also brief him and display the procedure on sex toys,” he says. “When they come the second time, they don’t hesitate anymore,” he adds, sharing that people usually refer to condoms through local slangs such as ‘topi’, ‘khol’ or ‘bora’ when they come for it.
With its branches opened in Kathmandu, Itahari, Dharan and Chitwan, the store has helped spread awareness about the use of contraceptives to prevent HIV and Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) by making condoms more accessible.
“Most people have the habit of buying condoms in a hurry due to embarrassment. They tend not to pay attention to the important details, such as the expiry date. They hesitate in clearing their doubts about the use of condoms and what not to do while storing it,” says Neupane. This gives rise to the chances of the failure of condoms.
Feeling of embarrassment and the fear of someone spotting you in the process of buying contraceptive is a common feeling that most young people have. However, if we have taken the decision to be sexually active, then we must be responsible, at least for the sake of our own selves and our partners, and make sure that we’re fully protected. For the stigma attached to youth and sex to change, we ourselves have to take bold steps.
The next time you need to buy a contraceptive, do it confidently.
* Obvious names in this coverage are changed for privacy.