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Furore over premarital potency test


Doctors suggest sexual education as part of premarital counselling instead

It started as a hearing of a husband’s petition to quash an FIR that his wife had filed against him for domestic violence, in the Madurai Bench of the High Court. Justice N. Kirubakaran, listening to the arguments of the petitioner, veered to the question of “potency.” He deemed it fit to constitute a special sitting to decide whether premarital clinical examination for the bride and the groom should be made mandatory.

Naturally, there was outrage. Some termed the move to make potency a precondition for marriage “outrageous”; medical professionals disagreed on whether tests could prove “potency.” But some voices, mostly those of women who had filed for divorce on the grounds of impotency, rang out in favour of the test at the sitting in Madurai.

“This does not exist anywhere else in the world. It is bizarre,” says Vijay Nagaswami, psychiatrist and relationships consultant. “Potency is a legal construct, not medical or psychological. In fact, we consider it a perfectly odious terminology.” The key argument against the move seems to be medical: a semen analysis and Doppler study will be done. “But they cannot tell potency from this. And there is no test available to test the ‘frigidity’ of women.” Dr. Nagaswami adds that the majority of such issues are psychiatric in origin. A perfectly “potent” person could have issues in the bedroom; newly wed couples may be crippled by anxiety.

D. Narayana Reddy, sexologist, told The Hindu recently that tests under laboratory conditions may not yield accurate results, and issues such as erectile dysfunction could be temporary.

Also, technological progress has made effective intervention possible in most sexual problems. Instead of asking for potency tests, doctors suggest that proper sexual education should be made a part of premarital counselling.

Noted lawyer and BJP leader Vanathi Srinivasan says living with a person deemed “impotent” should be the choice of the individual. If the man or woman feels the marriage cannot continue for this reason, there are other remedies available under law, including divorce.

Published: 14th September 2014 06:06 AM

MADURAI: Advocating pre-marital counselling instead of making potency tests mandatory for marriage to prevent break-up of wedlock, health experts requested the Madurai Bench of Madras High Court to constitute an expert committee to formulate the modalities to study various aspects on the sensitive issue.

Participating in the special sitting of the Court, presided by Justice N Kirubakran on Saturday, to ascertain the views of various stakeholders to make potency tests mandatory for marriage, Dr R Ravichandran, Head of the Andrology Department, Meenakshi Mission Hospital and Research Centre submitted that fertility and impotency are two different issues.

“It is not practically feasible to make pre-marital potency tests mandatory because most of the cases related to impotency are psychological in nature. Further, it is also not financially viable for the people,” he said.Lack of understanding of lovemaking, anxiety, fear, depression, loss of self-esteem, lack of self-confidence and stress were the reasons behind the Erectile Dysfunction (ED). “For instance, we have come across cases where a man with normal erection is unable to perform sex with his spouse because she resembles his mother.  In another case, a man couldn’t have intercourse since he is detested by his wife’s body smell,” the physician pointed out.

Non-cooperation from women and making false allegations of impotency also cause psychological problems. “Recently, when we examined a woman who complained about her husband’s impotency, we found it to be false as she disliked his personality,” he said.

Elaborating the issue, Ravichandran said all EDs could be rectified. “While only one per cent of male population faces ED, making the remaining 99 per cent to go for premarital potency test would only cause a negative impact,” he claimed. At this juncture, Justice Kirubakaran intervened and said, “Most of the laws are there to correct the wrong behaviour of just one percent of the population.”

When the Judge asked whether length of the penis might cause impotency among men, Ravichandran said, “If a man’s penis is less than 4 cm, he may have erection, but can’t have penetration.” The better way to address this problem, according to the doctor is to educate the people through sex education. “If  a man has erection for every 20 minutes during his sleep, he is potent. Awareness meeds to be created among the general public on these aspects,” he added.

Hence, he suggested setting up of counselling centres to address these issues with qualified counsellors, capable enough to understand the problems of the couples and maintain confidentiality of the counselling process. Both Ravichandran and Ramasubramanian requested the judge to constitute a panel comprising legal and medical experts, social workers and the public to address this issue in depth and submit a report to the Court in the next two months.

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