RD Karve: Meet the Man Who Pioneered Sex Education In the 1920s

Little is known about Raghunath Dhondo Karve. Most of us haven't even heard his name. Some know him as the son of Maharshi Karve, the Bharat Ratna awardee, who worked for the welfare and education of widows.

So, playwright Ajit Dalvi and director Atul Pethe decided to tell RD Karve’s story 100 years after he started his work. Karve started the first birth control clinic in 1921 in Mumbai. So, he deserves to be called the father of India’s family planning programme.

The play is titled Samaj Swasthya, after the name of the magazine started by Karve and his wife Malati to spread the message of birth control and sex-related issues. The Marathi play was first staged in Pune and was launched in Mumbai on Saturday, 4 March.

The play revolves around the 3 cases that were slapped against Karve for ‘spreading vulgarity’. Instead of encouraging Karve’s humanitarian work, leaders of various religions had come together to pull him down. Dr BR Ambedkar was Karve’s lawyer in one of the cases.

Interestingly, all the issues discussed by Karve and Ambedkar are as relevant today as they were a century ago. They include religious intolerance, opposition to rational thought, denying right for sexual pleasure, condition of women, hatred towards homosexuals, etc.

Girish Kulkarni, who won the National Award for acting in 2011, is playing the central character of RD Karve. Girish thinks our society has moved backwards and that Karve was only abused in the beginning of the 20th century, but rationalists like Dabholkar and Pansare are being shot down today.

The play will now travel across Maharashtra to spread Karve’s message. Although it has received good response in Pune and Mumbai, it remains to be seen if the eye-opener gets commercial success in smaller towns.

Video Journalist: Yashpal Singh
Video Editor: Kammaljiit Kainth & Veeru Krishna Mohan