Condoms are the cheapest and perhaps one of the most effective birth-control methods and with a population of 135 crores, it can be assumed that India needs them more than anything else. They have also been called ‘life-savers’ when it comes to protection against sexually transmitted diseases. However, one of the things that we are never told about regular condoms is that with a quite-frightening list of ingredients like Nitrosamine, which is carcinogenic in nature and has been linked to tumour growth, spermicides, that can increase the risk of contracting sexually transmitted infections, Benzocaine, a local anaesthetic that has been linked to causing hormonal imbalance, and Casein, which is a milk protein that can affect people with lactose intolerance, condoms are actually not the safest option for vaginal health. To top that, flavoured condoms are filled with parabens and sugar molecules that promote urinary tract infection inside women’s bodies. There’s something to be said when these flavoured condoms are found in 47 different varieties in the market.
To top that, it is also quite well-known that the only thing Indians love besides sex is banning condom ads. While a lot has been said about how the stigma attached to sex in the Indian society that leads to these ads being banned by the government, there’s something to be said about the purpose that these condom ads serve. Usually marketed as objects of pleasure, commercially-sold condoms betray users into believing that these can enhance their experience, whereas all these toxic condoms really do is that they behind chemicals that can cause more rashes and irritation in the vagina. Down to the basics, condom advertisements are meant to inform and educate people about the relevance of condoms as a method of birth control and safe sex. On the other hand, when advertisements make them seem as if they are facilitators of elongated or enhanced sex, our attention shifts from the point of the matter. Female sexual needs and reproductive health, owing to the double whammy cast by careless advertising and the stigma attached to female sexuality, gets buried even further.
Komal Baldwa knew there had to be an alternative to the toxic condoms when she found out that more than 60% of women suffer from infection and discomfort due to toxic condoms sold in the Indian market. She realised that alternatives did exist in the American and the European markets, but not in India. Drawing from her personal experiences and a lot of research, she went ahead and established Bleü Condoms, which are India’s first and only non-toxic male latex condoms. Bleu condoms are free from Parabens, Glycerin, Artificial flavours and Benzocaine. As she states on her website, Bleü condoms were born from her belief that a woman has the right to decide what should be inserted in her vagina. Bleü believes in complete transparency with its users, by stating all the product ingredients on their packs.
The idea of a woman selling condoms does not go down easily in the Indian society, and so Komal Baldwa had to bear the brunt of people who looked down upon her and her initiative. However, all along, she kept believing that a condom brand, rather than marketing on the basis of the aspect of pleasure alone, should focus on the basic function of condoms, which is to provide protection during coitus, and enabling choice when it comes to parenthood.
Bleü Condoms are sustainable in that they only use ethically-derived recyclable latex from pesticide-free forests, use no plastic in their packaging, and offer employment to women. These hypoallergenic condoms do not contain any harsh chemicals in the lubrication liquid nor carcinogenic agents in the rubber. Casein removal makes these condoms vegan and lactose-intolerance-friendly. They state on their website that, “it is unlikely for one’s partner to have a nasty experience like irritation, itching or burning sensation as a side effect post lovemaking. Bleü natural rubber condoms come pre-lubricated with a non-chemical based natural gel sans any toxic agents like paraben or glycerine in it.”
Bleü is also associated with NGOs working towards AIDS prevention. For each condom sold, they donate 5% of the sale value to End Aids foundation to help India win the battle against HIV.
Komal also believes that the way we talk about condoms and sexual health in India needs to be changed. Our focus needs to shift from pleasure and taboo to health, when it comes to discussing sex and contraceptive choices like condoms. The same also needs to reflect in how these products are marketed. If treated like another health option, and packaged simply, “more like a medicine”, as Komal says, the taboo around condoms will most definitely subside, and teenagers and women will probably start talking about their needs and asking for their rights more freely.
Bleü condoms are only available online at the moment. They can be purchased here.
Read Bleü’s blog here.
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