Raghunath Dhondo Karve
Plan-B
A person ill-prepared is a person set up for failure. It's essential to educate yourself about the issues that really matter the most so you can make the right choices.
The pioneer of sex education. Image source: BBC

Died on 14th October 1953

If you've watched the show Ginny and Georgia, you would remember the episode where Georgia drags Ginny (Virginia) out of school to put her on a Plan-B pill. (Apologies to those who have never watched the show, a cue for all of you to go and watch it now).

It's a significant scene, not because it encompasses sexual health and safe sexual practices, but it also deals with issues of teen pregnancy.

Reproductive health, sexual practices, birth control, family planning, and female sexual pleasure are socially relevant topics, but unfortunately, engaging in a discourse on these topics is not socially acceptable.

A society can only expect to grow if its women are liberated and not shackled by the chains of patriarchy that impose numerous restrictions on them- each making them more subservient than ever.

Back in ancient times and even today, the female pleasure was equated with hysteria. Therefore, the elders found a way to numb any sensation- Female Genital Mutilation. It didn't end here. Women themselves proudly carried out this procedure on young girls because childbirth was a duty, not an act of pleasure.

You see, women's sexual movements and preferences have been controlled for a very long time. The texts may explain what consent and pleasure are all about, but that theory takes a dump in the real world where one moves practically.

Since most men and women aren't educated about sexual health, they're vulnerable to diseases and unwanted pregnancies. Such significant events can cause trauma, especially to those in their teens or those who weren't prepared for anything.

Many are perhaps clueless about women's sexuality which is why the taboo still exists. But there was a person who understood the concept better than anyone else.

Raghunath Dhondo Karve, a mathematician from Maharashtra was the first individual in India who openly expressed his views on family planning, birth control, and a female's right to experience sexual pleasure.

Of course, there was an intense hue and cry. He was even ousted from the college where he taught. But his stance remains vital even today.

Raghunath Dhondo Karve and his wife Malati Raghunath Karve advocated their lives to the above causes. Family planning is essential towards the growth of any country- socially and economically. If the population growth is unchecked, it may create grave problems. Shortage of resources, unemployment, poor health care, and unsanitary living conditions are a few problems faced by economies that don't focus on family planning and reproductive health. As a rational man, he recognized these problems that most orthodox, uneducated and even educated people of this country chose to ignore.

His magazine, Samajswasthya- a compilation of essays on family planning, sexual health, etc., was publicly condemned. Dr. B.R Ambedkar was the only one who stood by Karve when religious and political leaders targetted him.

He was a pioneer for sex education when no one even wanted to admit that sex existed, but almost every family had no less than 7 kids. Karve's initiative extended to educating widows, addressing the problems of homosexuals, and the condition of women.

Being verbally abused by people every day did not deter him from carrying out the welfare work he set out to do with his wife. Even when he lost his job and was ostracised from the community, his wife stayed with him through it all and believed in his cause. The two of them chose to not have children.

While Karve's heart and intent were in the right place, the lack of finances, networking skills, and average looks could not win society's approval. Although, his works are now considered ground breaking in terms of understanding female sexual pleasure and health.

With each passing year, it sometimes seems that our society is regressing. Relevant topics aren't always comfortable to talk about but admitting that they're relevant and essential to living a better life is a start. Introducing sex-ed in schools and talking about birth control and family planning is as important as solving quadratic equations.
Devanshee Author
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