The Population Council recently announced that it will distribute 250,000 comic books that aim to dispel "chauvinistic" notions about sex and spread HIV/AIDS awareness in four Indian cities, Reuters India reports. According to United Nations figures, more than two-thirds of married women ages 15 to 49 in India experience violence, rape or coerced sex. Some experts say traditional ideas and social attitudes about masculinity make men behave in ways that place them and their partners at an increased risk of contracting sexually transmitted infections, including HIV.
The comics are aimed at boys and men ages 15 to 24 and are designed to not look like teaching materials, Reuters India reports. They will be available at no cost in Bengali, Hindi, Telugu and Urdu, and a limited edition in English also will be available. The comics will be distributed among residents in the shanty towns of Hyderabad, Kolkata, Mumbai and New Delhi. They also will be distributed to video game parlors, Internet cafes and other locations frequented by young people, Reuters India reports.
"Many Indian men think it is cool to be violent and forceful with women, and that women who answer back are loose and therefore need controlling," Vijaya Nidadavolu, communication director for the Population Council, said, adding, "The idea is to make them aware of alternative gender norms that in turn might make them more equitable and thereby indulge in safer sexual practices." According to Nidadavolu, the advantage of the comics is their entertainment value. "Plus, comic books are easy to carry and hide -- we find that given the stigma around HIV, it is quite useful to have materials that people can conceal," Nidadavolu said (Mukherjee, Reuters India, 5/16).
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