Only men use condoms. Right? Wrong. In cities like Delhi and Mumbai, female condoms are now doing brisk business.
Thanks to the surge in sex workers operating from home, call girls, escort services and also consensual sex, the demand for female condom has soared in cities.
Both experts and social marketing companies promoting female condoms at subsidised rates say women want to take
“Women are more confident now. And they view female condoms as their own product, which gives them pleasure as well as protection,” says Sanjeev Gaikwa, the director of Family Health International (FHI), western region.
Till recently, the biggest barrier in the use of a female condom was its cost.
Commercially, a female condom is available for Rs 45 to 50. But now, with social marketing companies selling it for Rs 2 to 5, a lot of women are going for it. Many of those engaged in sex trade are not only using these condoms, they are also preferring them over male condoms.
“Women who are into home-based sex work particularly prefer female condoms. Their charges are higher, so this fits into their budget,” says Gaikwad. FHI, along with its own brand of male condom Astha, is now distributing and selling female condoms among flying and home-based sex workers.
“There were misconceptions regarding female condoms earlier. Though this condom looks bigger than a male condom, it is as long. It is smooth, has extra lubrication and is stronger,” says Shilpa Merchant of Population Service International (PSI), another social marketing company for female condoms in India.
“Many a time, Indian males do not prefer using a condom — it hurts their dignity. For women, protection is the key and if they use a female condom, their safety is guaranteed,” says Alok Waghwani of Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
“Competition has increased and sex workers now consider it foolish to lose a customer by insisting on a male condom. Besides, high paying clients do not want to use a condom,” adds Waghwani.
In such cases too, female condoms save the scene.