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Why Do Many Indian Women Pop An I Pill Than Ask Their Partners To Use Condoms?

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By Suchi Gaur:

She was all of 22 years. With four daughters already and two abortions done, I thought I should ask her how it felt to have been pregnant literally all the time since she had been married off. But before I could, her tear-filled eyes looked at me, her lips tried to (fake a) smile, and she said, “This is what women are born for after all. Isn’t it?” I had no answer.

female contraceptive

It wasn’t that I literally didn’t have anything to say. Somehow, I could have used all my textbook based knowledge and my dose of empathy to make her understand that she was worth more than that. That she was powerful. That she was more than a baby-producing machine. That she had rights. But suddenly at that moment, I was completely numb. I had nothing to say. I realized how every system, every policy, every initiative and every organization had failed at that very moment for me.

Do I sound a little hopeless? I had to be. I had no other choice at that moment. This issue was more complicated than it looked. What were the problems? Was it patriarchy and women’s status? Or was it access to contraception? Decision making? Or maternal health care? Male-heir desperation? What was it?

On my way back, her strong words kept on resonating in my mind and all I could feel was a sudden rush, an uncontrollable feeling of hatred towards the society. People call me emotional with respect to my work. They say I should be more practical, but the major reason that I joined such a field of work was that I wanted my emotions to become a passion. I had a hundred thoughts and as the sun started setting, the cold breeze seemed to hit me harder than it usually did.

Issues of family planning go way beyond the number of babies. It encompasses the awareness about contraception, the right to make that choice on using one, it entails the issues of maternal and child care, it entails patriarchy and control over bodies, it involves issues of infection, HIV and violence against women. It’s much more than contraception and incentives for getting vasectomy or birth control.

The fact remains that while an educated and strong working urban woman is moving towards using contraception for her own sake, in an average Indian household (let’s not even discuss rural here), a woman still struggles to discuss contraceptive measures to be used by males. She will pop an i-pill or hormonal contraceptive pill rather than asking her husband to use condoms. Condoms have male ego attached to them.

So, when I asked that woman from a very economically progressive yet patriarchal town of a very rich state in India about her view on condoms and birth control, the blank look on her face made me wonder where we are all going wrong, in our struggle to make the country control the over-production of babies.

The questions that remain are: Will a woman show that she knows her contraceptives well? Will she tell her male counterparts that she is bothered about her health and he should be too? Will she go ahead and buy condoms for him to use? Will she be respected for her interest in use of condoms for birth control and infections? Will a man value his partner’s opinion on contraception, let her choose what she wants rather than ego-stabbing his opinions on her? Will contraception become more than a man’s decision, a choice that both take together? The point is that while men expect to rule over women and force them to do what they want in bed, expecting an average Indian man to make balanced choices keeping his female counterpart in mind is going a little too far right now.

All this takes me back to my Physiology lessons where we did a project on contraception in our B.Sc days, we explored the various methods and means, but did we understand the theory and practicality to use them? The issues of negotiating, of decision making and of rights vs access are something that still remain untaught to women and men out there. Indians don’t appreciate talking about bedrooms publicly, but somewhere the urgent need of the hour is to start talking about things as crucial as contraception, sex education, menstruation and pregnancy-childbirth-menopause.

Her eyes still haunt me when I see women like her around. And till date, I don’t have any answer to give to any woman who comes and asks me what to do to stop her husband from asking her to pull out baby boys from her uterus. I can never forget those eyes. Not until I find an answer, a solution.

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  1. Jyotindra

    The writer Ms Suchi Gaur clearly seems to be part of contemporary pseudo-feminist movement, which has hit a new low in rationality. She is doing her PhD and she should know that her point of views and opinions should be holistic and should include much more participants (both male and female). It clearly seems that her this article is based on feedback(s) of only one lady, who might be considered as an exception and not a generalized sample. Ms Suchi should also know that more than 90% couple use male condom as a method of contraception (sans sterilization), so should we start blaming females for promoting matriarchy in the society; ofcourse we would not. Using a method of contraception is matter of personal choice (of couple involved) which is based on factors of convenience and cost. Condoms fare much better in both in comparison to emergency pills. Each condom might cost as high as Rs 10, but an emergency pill will cost atleast a 100 Rs. Moreover, usage scenario of both condoms and emergency pills are totally different. Emergency pills are taken only when condoms were not used as primary contraceptive, a joint scenario will only happen when a couple gets involved in unplanned sex. Even if you find a person who doesn’t want protected sex and later subscribes to the idea of emergency pills, the cases will be too few and far between, based on which you can not make such claims. You can rather base your study on the fact that more than 90% males use condoms as primary method of contraception. The facts about rural population will not concern this article as they anyways won’t be able to afford i Pills as emergency contraceptive.
    Please try to exclude pseudo-feminist views from your research and studies because we are a society which is much more holistic and general. I know most of the sections of society is still engulfed with patriarchy but your this article can not substantiate it at all.

    1. prashastika

      Firstly…this all has to do with PATRIARCHY.. If u think that the writer has not researched properly with more public men and women. let me tell you this. I’ve been holding surveys and questionnaire with the women in urban poor areas mostly with lower caste women as i intern with a local organisation. And you take my words. that most women have no say in the family planning and contraceptive methods…they are highly subjugated. okay you are right that condoms are the most common contraception in today lives, however the point takes the course to a woman’s right over her body, her sexual needs and her health. Most women are subjected to marital rape and violence. thousands of women really are not conscious of their lives, their maternal health. be it condoms or i pills …it all depends upon the men.. These little instances make us ponder about the larger off track issues which are somewhere related to the structures of the society. And mind you i am not a pseudo feminist nor do i think the writer is.. these examples which i can cite hundreds of from my practical fieldwork ( about whom you may think are off the moot question and tag us PSEUDO FEMINIST) are actually so subtle that u may think are very normal and we are creating a fuss over it but are strongly problematic.

    2. Jyotindra

      First of all read the last sentence which I had written. I myself had admitted that the society is mostly patriarchy. Your over excitement on this issue is taking you to a level where you start talking abstract and not about the issue. This is the primary trait of a pseudo-feminist. I have many actual feminist friends who talk about the issues you are putting forth. But an actual feminist will never link each and everything to male domination/ patriarchy. Who is denying the authenticity of whatever issues you intend to talk about. But in this story even the usage of i pill is connected to patriarchy, as ridiculous as it may seem. Do you even know about i pill? Find a single poor woman who has used an i pill ever. Again, I admit whatever you are saying is right but connection of the aforementioned issues with the usage of emergency pills is absolutely nonsense. An author should not deviate from the main issue. You can not paint a larger picture which goes beyond the canvas. We all are educated and responsible section of society and are in favour of women liberation; including that of sexuality. Discuss on each points that are against our women, list down possible set of cause and try to eliminate each one of them. Don’t just try correlate every random action of man to its dominance.
      My other concern with the article is that it is written notwithstanding many factual and logical errors (for example i pills for poor women). It may have been done to give unnecessary color of sexism to this article, which is highly uncalled for. The second primary trait of a pseudo feminist. Again, if you don’t talk about issues and their actual reasons, you will not be able to solve the problem properly.
      Truce (we all are for women liberation and emancipation)

  2. Dilisha

    I think this article raises a topic that needs to be talked about more. There are large proportions of the population that are aware of contraceptive methods and have access to them, but many many do not. It may be a 22 yr old woman as stated in this article, it could also be the 22 year old man, who has not been educated to know what methods of contraception to use. I find it awful that to access contraception is stigmatised. Like the idea of intercourse is laughable if for any other reason than conception. Let’s be realistic and stop pretending that sex only happens for the production of children. These ideals need to change. We are a society, as a community, as humanity, need to make that change. I am interested to learn more of the work that this author is undertaking. Please can you contact me via my email or twitter handle (@dilishabp)

    To the Jyotindra- you are welcome to your opinions, but perhaps before you judge someone perhaps look at the entire picture. This was a short article of a view point. I assume it did not aim to offend or judge an entire population on one subject. As she is doing her PhD I am sure she is fully aware how to form arguments for a conclusion.

    1. Jyotindra

      Perhaps you should read my both the comments perhaps before deciding that I am judging someone.

  3. Piyush Aswani

    The title of your post is misleading. I know a lot of urban couples who don’t use condoms just because they don’t like it, they come to a mutual discussion of popping up contraceptive pills afterwards (obviously the woman) better. And I can bet a majority of women may not know what a contraceptive is, leave alone using them.

  4. Ra’s al Ghul

    Sex is more pleasurable without a condom, but the method of withdrawal can be used. I take my penis out of my wife’s vagina just before I am about to ejaculate. Most of the time though, I use a condom, and I have never asked my wife to use a pill. A condom does not have a male ego attached to it, ma’am. For those people who force their wives to use the pill, maybe it is because civilization has reached the pinnacle of decadence and they are trying to restore the balance. By the way, you are welcome to join the league of shadows. And no, it is not us who spread the i pill in the Indian market.

    1. Ra’s al Ghul

      Why have readers clicked on the minus sign to my comment? Which part of I have never asked my wife to use an i pill do you guys not understand? And if it is about restoring the balance, then that was meant to be a joke. Or if it is about the withdrawal method, then it is because my wife likes it. Or was I supposed to write, I insert my penis in her beautiful vagina?

      Unbelievable.

    2. Fem

      Not commenting on your comment. Just curious. There’s a minus/plus sign to rate the comments here? Where? Why don’t I see it?

  5. Sharmili Basu

    Hi Suchi , congrats for writing a wonderful article. Even I am associated with an NGO and working with slum women. We have to face such issues regularly. There’s no way to help them apart from doing some councelling of the male partners.
    Well I noticed that you are a developement communication expert and doing your PhD. Even I am interested in pursing PhD in Dev comm. Would like to gather some information as well as advice from you. Would you mind sharing your email ID or any other social platform address where I can get in touch with you. My email ID is write2sharmili@gmail.com. Looking forward to your reply.
    Cheers!

  6. Romita

    Glad to see that someone argues condoms to be more than just a medium of contraception and how an inanimate object takes a sexist form in the society.

  7. Prashant Kaushik

    I admire the writer for stating boldly in her profile what most of her counterpart feminists may fear a lot i.e. “Suchi has moved from being a Feminist to a Human Right Activist and stresses the importance of convergence and participation in bringing change”. I see a hope here.
    To me it appears she prefers to be associated to the entire species of Humans than just being a staunch one sided feminist. Going by this inference, and her strong academic credentials, Lets give her the benefit of doubt that she must have have come out with an objective report over the use of contraceptives by men and women in Indian Society.

    Having said that, I would still like to differ from the approach with which a solution to women issues is sought by the contemporary feminists and in that approach this writer also unfortunately seem to follow the same trend though to a lessor extent.

    The trend is to view Man and Woman as two separate and individualistic entities where the weaker entity must fight a battle to get more rights on an array of dimensions ( in this case/article – her reproductive system) . The writer is implicitly asking a question as to who amongst the man and woman should have the right to produce baby’s out of a woman’s womb ?
    My contention is that we are asking questions where we cant have an answer because the questions themselves are flawed.

    In our fight to equality for women, Are we on a path to bifurcate every single process, event and resource into 2 haves and allocate one to man and one to woman.
    We might start such division with huge fanfare but eventually in the long run we will end up messing up the whole civilization. Simply said – Such absolute division is not possible.

    Progeny is a gift of nature which can only be enjoyed when both creations – Man and Woman come together in fusion. Not when they stand compartmentalized fighting as if two nations fighting for sharing of river waters.

    The current situation of most women in our country is part of a bigger problem. The whole society is breaking down. There is chaos and domination every where. Unless we rectify the bigger cause, such cosmetic approach is only going to give a momentary relief.

    I wish, the writer, who has done a lot of research in social development activities, and who shows hope by saying herself a humanist, come out with an article focusing on those aspects where man-woman are part of a system which is happily symbiotic . Where the institution of their unison is functioning in favor of both or atleast in favor of women. May be we can take some lessons from there and seek answers by what is missing in those problematic sections where there are dysfunctions.

    1. Arvind

      The writer is not asking the question of who should have the say. It is quite clear that the say women have is way below what would remotely be considered acceptable or even rational.

      Moreover, when you say there is chaos everywhere and that the root cause has to be fixed, are you also proposing a solution?

      Because, this sounds like textbook red-tape to me. You’re argument is that addressing the problem from the surface won’t solve the root cause, yet, the only way the problem gets solved is if men actually realise that women aren’t just baby-producing machines; which we all know they aren’t going to. So, essentially, just leave it at that?

  8. An In-Your-Face Liberal

    This has a lot to do with Intimate Partner Violence, which when directed at women who would like to have control over their sex life limits their bargaining power.
    Lack of power of negotiation in sex life is a reason why lots of women contract HIV and other STDs as well. How someone can deny that it’s related to patriarchy and men’s ego is beyond any sensible person. IPV is a full-blown manifestation of controlling women’s bodies and sexuality.

    Of course I don’t mean all men do this to all women. What sucks is that I have to give this disclaimer so dunderheads don’t come shooting at my comment at the speed of light.

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