In an ideal world, both partners would be responsible for contraception, but this world is far from ideal. In heterosexual relationships, women often assume the responsibility for contraception because frankly, they have more at stake. According to the National Health Family Survey, only 53.5% of married couples use any type of contraception at all! It’s no surprise that India’s population is booming. There are a myriad of contraceptives available today, especially for women.
While research on male contraceptive pills looks promising, it is still a while away from entering the market. With this being true, does this mean that the entire responsibility of contraception should fall solely upon women?
While condoms are the most widely used form of contraception by the urban youth of India, attitudes across India as a whole tell a different story. Approximately 35% of married women, taking into account urban and rural differences, choose to have their ‘tubes tied’ after giving birth. In staggering contrast, only 0.3% men choose to have a vasectomy, even though medically speaking, vasectomies are simpler, less invasive, and easier to reverse. Misconceptions about the effects of a vasectomy on male virility and their ‘sex power’, have led women to assume the responsibility and burden for contraception.
Contraception in Urban India
It doesn’t help that sex education is a highly stigmatized, often shirked topic of conversation, which leaves India’s sexually active youth unprepared to deal with matters of health and contraception. Many misconceptions are widely believed by even the educated, urban youth of India, so much so that 20% of them do not use any form of contraception and 1 in three men think that withdrawing or ‘pulling out’ is an effective method of contraception. Spoiler Alert: It’s Not. Sadly, women too are often unaware or misinformed about correct contraception which eventually comes back to haunt them.
While condoms are a popular form of contraception, many men choose not to use them from reasons ranging from “I don’t like the feel of them” to “I can’t cum while wearing one”, which simply do not make the cut anymore. 2015 saw 48.1 million pregnancies, out of which close to half were unintended; it also saw a total of 15.6 million abortions. The lack of education clubbed with mistrust on contraceptives (by both men and women) has caused physical and mental trauma to a very high number of women in the form of unwanted pregnancies.
Contraception in Rural India
“We place the entire burden of controlling the population on very poor women, and we’re fairly callous about the way we treat them.”
India has one of the fastest growing economies, but it also has one of the fastest growing populations that is far from under control. Rural India’s lack of access to affordable contraception, and the myth that all contraception harms fertility often stops couples from using any at all.
Frequent pregnancies in an attempt to give birth to male children lead to malnutrition and severe anemia in women, reducing their life expectancy. This is only one of the health issues faced by woman who do not use contraception. Despite government efforts to encourage family planning and contraception, there has been little change. The ‘Hum Do Humare Do’ campaign remains just that; a failure of a media campaign. While the slogan gained traction, India’s population continues to boom and is soon to overtake China’s in the next few decades.
The government has been compensating female and male sterilization patients in rural India since 1981, but only women, wary of unwanted pregnancies, take it up, despite the invasive nature of the surgery. With limited government funding, overworked doctors, and sub-optimal surgical environment, women die on the table while their husbands may have lived. However, the misbelief that a man’s libido and sexual prowess will be affected leads to insecurities associated with traditional masculinity, and stops men from sharing the load, literally. It’s like Sudha Bharadwaj has said, “We place the entire burden of controlling the population on very poor women, and we’re fairly callous about the way we treat them.”
Why Contraception is Important
How about talking about what happens when you don’t use contraceptives? The first concern is obviously pregnancy, and the subsequent abortion or child. Unfortunately, the woman bears the brunt of the couple not using contraception even though it obviously took two to have an unwanted pregnancy. Societal and familial pressures come into play, and so does the partners will. There are further complications that could arise if she decides to give birth; pregnancy isn’t easy after all. And if she does decide to abort, that comes with its own set of emotional and physical side effects, some which last a lifetime, and shouldn’t be taken lightly.
And yes, having an unwanted pregnant seems far-fetched and surreal, but India as a whole proves that it is a very real occurrence. Contraception doesn’t matter, until neglect turns your life upside down. And while pregnancy may only affect the woman’s body, the child is ideally the responsibility of the man and the woman. Contraception should be the same.