This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Tanya Jain. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

Why Does The Burden Of Birth Control Fall On The Shoulders Of Women?

Note: The views and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not reflect position of any other entity or individual. These views are subject to change

India, usually does not fare well on the annual Global Gender Gap Index released by the World Economic Forum. Recently, we slipped 28 places and ranked 140 out of the 156 participatory countries. While gender gap in areas such as employment rate, political empowerment and education gap is prominent, the gap is not very noticeable or not highlighted enough in other areas.

While going through the National Family Health Survey Reports released by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, I couldn’t help but notice the sizeable difference between the female (36%) and male (0.3%) sterilisation rates in the country. Let’s look at some data to get a sense of the issue at hand.

Out of the total female contraceptive users who are currently married, only 0.5% uses male sterilisation as a method of birth control as against female sterilisation, which accounts for 67% of the cases.

Why is female sterilisation preferred over male sterilisation? Why do our initiatives and campaigns focus on family planning only target females? Why is birth control or sterilisation considered a female problem? Let’s rewind to the history to get our answers.

India was the first country to announce the National Family Programme in 1952 — it started with the aim of slowing down the population growth and lower the fertility rate. It was initially seen as a measure to improve maternity health, but soon, with realisation of the rapidly increasing population and pressure from countries across the globe, it became a maniac scheme to sterilise men.

In 1970s, the Indian government ran a massive campaign to sterilise men — more than 6 million men underwent vasectomies within a period of one year. Men in earlier times (or maybe even now?) were seen as sources of information and communication, they were seen as decision makers and initiators of family planning. And therefore, they were an obvious target for the government.

Various techniques were used to increase the numbers — such as luring the population with small plots of land in exchange for getting sterilised or threatening government job holders about their job security if they fail to comply with government instructions.

Doctors/nurses/dais working at the grassroots were given incentives for each person they would sterilise. But due to the obvious misalignment of the incentive scheme, the health workers forced the population to get sterilised instead of sensitising them.

The entire campaign faced a severe backlash from the community and the government was forced to put a pause on the ongoing campaign very soon. The campaign was relaunched in the 1980s, however, this time, the target population for family planning was females. The government was waiting for the political climate to get better and then make the scheme more inclusive, but unfortunately, it was never done.

Women were an easy target, and especially at the time when the scheme was re-branded. Women felt it was their responsibility to get sterilised. They believed that since they give birth, they are also responsible for all the reproductive burden that comes with it; some also did it to not lose their daily wages due to pregnancy/menstruation.

Indian women with a pregnant belly

In our male dominated society, people carry a misconception that vasectomies impact men’s virility or manliness. The situation has worsened so much that now about 37.3% men believe that family planning and contraceptives usage is a ‘woman’s business’, while 20.2% strangely believe that women who use contraceptive become promiscuous.

Are the females made aware of what they’re getting into?

Sadly, not enough. The National Family Health Survey-4 highlights that 58% of the women opting for sterilisation were not told about its side effects. Further, 52% of the said population were not even sensitised about other methods that they can utilise for birth control. The statistics get worse in states such as Andhra Pradesh, wherein 75% women were not told about the side effects of sterilisation and 65% did not know about other methods that they can utilise.

Has The Government Taken Any Step To Combat The Problem And Have They Worked?

The government has increased the amount of monetary compensation for those getting vasectomies versus tubectomies. For example: vasectomy acceptors get Rs 1,100, while tubectomy acceptors get Rs 600. However, even with such a wide difference, the uptake for male sterilisation is abysmal.

It is also important to note here that ASHA workers in villages (Accredited Social Health Activists aka ASHA workers are community health workers deployed at the village level to support the population with various health services) are mostly females and therefore more comfortable in speaking with females.

India has a very small percentage of male nurses in the country. This may have had an impact on the skewed percentage that we are witnessing today. An article published in the Gaon Connection also highlights that health experts supports this theory and suggest that reproductive health care would improve for both men and women if more male workers were employed in community healthcare.

It is clear that the problem is deep-rooted in how our society thinks, the misconceptions that have been carried forward from the past, the undue advantage that we often give to males and our inability to question long standing traditions. It is imperative for the government to change the narrative around family planning. There is an urgent need to make it more inclusive that should be reflected in our policy decisions and our public statements.

Note: The article was originally published here.

You must be to comment.

More from Tanya Jain

Similar Posts

By Ritika Singhal

By Pragati Sharma

By Anjali joseph

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below