Dr.Niveditha Manokaran is a dermatologist, and venereologist, who also spreads valuable and correct information about sexual and reproductive health, based in Sydney, Australia. It would be less accurate to define her by the titular aspects of her health-related specialties. She is, above all, a caring individual who believes in the healing powers of conversation and thus provides emotional and therapeutic counseling.
Dr. Niveditha Manokaran has taken the initiative to smash the taboos and the stigma around sex in India through her Instagram handle “dr_nive_untaboos.”
Here’s the delightful conversation with Dr. Niveditha Manokaran on her journey as a dermatologist, venereologist, and dermatologist with Icy Tales.
Q. Would you tell our readers about your journey and endeavors and how you tackled all the taboos and hindrances that came your way?
Dr.Niveditha Manokaran I grew up in an era where I did not even speak about sex at my house, and my parents were surgeons, and still, I did not receive any sex education. Most of it was from girl talks. And the irony is I got trained in Dermatology and Venereology and still did not talk about sex. I was taught to diagnose STIs and treat them well, but as I mentioned earlier, there is so much more to sexual health than that.
When I moved to Sydney, I started working in sexual health because I did not get a job in dermatology that year. I was taken aback and fascinated by the amount of care, respect, and identity this as a delicate yet essential area, and providing confidential service to youngsters without any judgment, counseling, or care swept my feet away. I am 11 years into this field and love what I do.
Q. As a sexual health physician, you are using social media tools to spread awareness about myriad issues. How do you go about curating educational content on sexual wellness and awareness?
Dr.Niveditha Manokaran: I love the job I do, which is purely my inspiration. When you do what you love, you don’t have to curate, things flow in your mind, and you have so much to share. Also, the questions that I have been asked on a day to bday basis are the source where I curate my content, which is a significant advantage because I work as a Sexual & Reproductive Health physician, which means I do this for a living and also for creating awareness amongst the youth and the people on Instagram.
On a day-to-day basis, when I see a lot of youngsters and the questions based on the myths and beliefs they have that are untrue, those beliefs give me an idea to put my content. I try to answer those questions in the content by educating people.
In my opinion, that is the best way to make the audience aware. And in a country like ours, everything and anything about sex is informative. We have been so silent and in denial for so long that we are lagging in knowledge and sexual wellness and awareness are the need of the moment.
Q) In today’s market-driven world, where empathy, compassion, and kindness are hard to find, how do you bridge and overcome the issues with vulnerable and compromised simply because of gender inequality?
Dr.Niveditha Manokaran: To do this kind of job, you need to have compassion and empathy and be a nonjudgemental person. People have a very generalized opinion that doing sexual and reproductive health is a straightforward job, but in all honesty, it is a very demanding job.
Especially when it comes to the emotional side of things like when you are communicating with people, who are coming out with gender inequality, the LGBTQ community, you are dealing with many people who are still in the minority and are tabooed in many places. They are finding it very difficult to come out from the same. It would be best to have extreme empathy, kindness, and compassion when dealing with such situations. You have to have an understanding of the mental state of the person.
Q) How can you normalize the discussions about sexual and reproductive health?
Dr.Niveditha Manokaran: I have learned the skills over the years. In India, people are so worried about how society is going to look at you? How are they going to judge you? That is the most important thing we are taught in India. After “log kya kahenge,” we come to “shadi kon karega?”Here we come to the point where we think, okay, I should say only certain things and behave differently. Every time it is someone else. As I have grown, I think I have evolved where I have crossed the point where I am not bothered about what people will say. That is the break-even point.
Q) What led to your decision to work in this healthcare field, which is often marked by a lot of stigma/taboo?
Dr.Niveditha Manokaran: In my opinion, I missed the care as a youngster in India that made me stick to this. Growing up in India, some people questioned the sexual assault, or some questioned the safety and the doctors who questioned the contraception? When I moved to Sydney, this place gave me a sense and feel of medicine where the youngsters between the ages of 14 and 21 could guide me on safe sex. Instead of people rolling their eyes with a judgmental attitude, the minute you say that you are sexually active, it disappoints me.
How do not get pregnant? How to come for regular STI checkups? How to make sure that their sex is consensual and not forced? When doing this as a job, I am just fascinated because I missed out. This is what every young person wants and desires. They get the desired support system and someone who has their back and talks to them about their sexual life and is not judgmental.
I think that is important. The part that I play doing for people that I had missed when I was a youngster is something that I enjoy the most. It is something that I would stick to doing for a lifetime. I wish to pass it on to India and make people aware of sex education.
Q) How is a day in the life of a doctor in your hospital? Elaborate in as much detail as possible with a description of each hour in your day?
Dr.Niveditha Manokaran: The best thing I like about my job and Sydney is that there is an outstanding work-life balance, which is very important. I am a total believer in work-life balance, and I do not push myself for money and finances. I think that is very important for your children when they are very young; I think it’s a very crucial time.
I have very flexible shorter days. I like to drop my kids off at the school, and the morning hugs and the kisses, trying to go and pick them up from the school, have a chat with the teacher and get them ice cream when returning from the school, spending some evening time with those moments are very very important for me.
Being a doctor, I am very fortunate that I do a job where I can have flexible hours, my work-life balance, and as a single parent trying to raise two boys, teaching them the correct values, showing them a lot of love, making them feel secure. I think I try and balance pretty well. I try to cut my day shorter and try to do the work-life balance because I know at a certain point they will be all grown, they will be gone you can work full time when they won’t need you as much.
Q) How have your thoughts about the medical profession and being a doctor changed after completing residency and beginning practice?
Dr.Niveditha Manokaran: It has been a significant shift for me because I moved countries. Being residential, being the younger junior doctor. The work culture back in India and the work culture back in Sydney are entirely different. It’s hard work everywhere and long hours of shifts and rotations.
There is more equality, and you can always verbalize how you feel; it doesn’t matter with the hierarchical system; even if you are a junior doctor, your opinions are always respectful, and things happen accordingly. As an individual and as a person, I have learned so much. Life is different with a different atmosphere, which I enjoy the most.
Q) What is the best thing about your practice/any closing remarks?
Dr.Niveditha Manokaran: The best thing about my practice is we need more nonjudgmental doctors who are available and are ready to help the youngsters rather than judge them. I think that is an essential part of sexual health.
If you are doing sexual health medicine as a specialty or if you are a general practitioner, it does not matter; as doctors, we should have a non-judgmental attitude and an attitude to help youngsters to reach out to us whether it is related to their sexuality, or abuse or assaults or symptoms, fears of contraception whatever it is, we should help youngsters to come out of concerns and help them to have a safe and healthy sexual life.
Instead of being in a frame where we keep repeating that they are not supposed to have sex or they shouldn’t be having sex. in my opinion, it’s high time to adapt as doctors, especially as an individual that youngsters are having sex. It’s essential to guide the youngsters to have healthy and safe sex.
Dr.Niveditha Manokaran is a well-known dermatologist, venereologist, and sexual and reproductive health worker, making the youngsters aware of sexuality and having safe sex. She is associated with NGOs and sexual health educators, which helps educate and spread awareness about this essential part of health. She is breaking the taboos and educating people on many tabooed topics.
Watch the interesting and informative conversation on our Youtube Channel.