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

The Myths Around Contraception I Came Across In Rural Maharashtra

More from CHAITALI KAMBLE

There are lots of myths around contraception (be it condoms, IUDs, or sterilisation surgeries), which lead to the burden of preventing unwanted pregnancies falling solely on the shoulders of women, in rural Maharashtra.

__

Can you imagine yourself married, staying with your spouse, but you and your partner agree to fulfil each other’s sexual desires only through foreplay, above the waist… No, right?

There is a couple in rural Maharashtra, practicing it for more than a year now. You might think that they may be uneducated or illiterate. No, they are not. The wife is completing her graduation and the husband works in Pune in a design space.

Yes, a mere degree and working in a metro city, does not suffice. Imagine the plight of about every fourth girl, married off before 18 years of age. 

My job gave me an exceptional opportunity to dwell deep in the space of women’s sexuality, in rural Maharashtra. Although my work was focused on understanding the behaviours around the use of contraception, it inevitably included sexual behavior too.

It wasn’t easy to make women talk about their intimate life experiences. However, for whomsoever we could create a safe sharing space, the findings were revealing, as much as concerning.

Misconceptions Around The Use Of Contraceptives

The case introduced above, was one of those cases which has been lingering in my mind for a long time. With sheer curiosity, when I asked her: Why is it only above the waist? Don’t you feel like having penetrative sex at all?”

“We do, but we aren’t prepared for a child now. I have my exams coming up.”

“Hmm, but there are products that one can use to have penetrative sex safely, like condoms or Mala-D type pills. You won’t have to worry about the unwanted pregnancy then”

“They say if we use them, there might be a problem in conceiving. So, at least till our first baby, we won’t use anything.”

 “Okay, who told you they create problems in conceiving?” I asked in an enquiry mode.

“The doctor from the pharmacy (most probably a pharmacist) and besides, my husband does not enjoy using them.”

“Okay, why so? I mean, only if you wish to talk about it.”

“I don’t know, I never asked.”

Indian Men Don’t Like Using Condoms

He isn’t alone. According to data, nearly 95% of Indian men do not use condoms.

During my second visit after a few months, she also shared that her mother-in-law was against the use of contraception. 

“Did you ever visit a doctor to consult them on the use of contraception?” I asked because I was worried. 

“Why should we? We don’t think we need to.”

It felt like a traditional custom they were obliged to follow, because the diktat came from their mothers or mother-in-laws. I was still happy to know that, at least, there was no pressure to conceive soon after marriage and she was “allowed” to complete her education.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Youth Ki Awaaz (@youthkiawaaz)

The other popular misconception was about Cu-T, an IUD (Intra-uterine device): that it goes up from the uterus to the diaphragm and/or causes profound bleeding during menses. 

Each contraceptive method comes with its drawbacks. Some women have more symptoms than others. Are they totally safe? Here is what I found:

“In recent years, scientists have started to realise that the brains of women on the pill, look fundamentally different. Compared to women who aren’t taking hormones, some regions of their brains seem to be more typically ‘male’.”

Other Reasons Around Avoidance Of Contraceptives 

Many women I interviewed were not aware of modern contraception methods, that include injectables, implants, emergency contraceptive pills, as well as the traditional calendar and withdrawal methods.

What they were aware of or had heard of were Cu-T, Mala-D and sterilisation operations. In most cases, as soon as they got married, there was pressure from the family to conceive. It was also about proving one’s ability to conceive a child.

I met women around 20 years of age, who already were mothers to one or two kids. I also met a few women around the age of 25-30 years, who were married for half a decade or more, and desperate to have kids.

It wasn’t always their choice to have babies, but also because they were being threatened to be deserted by their husband and in-laws, if they weren’t able to reproduce. For some women, reproduction was the sole purpose of their lives and if not for child bearing and raising. 

They would ask if we know of any doctor who can help them conceive, even when they already have already tried visiting numerous doctors. And, it was always a woman who would first undergo an entire body check-up to rule out that she isn’t at ‘fault’!

Then, if at all, her husband will undergo tests and decide to opt for treatment thereafter. Here, again, not that the women were doubtful of their own fertility, but because it’s like a norm to rule out her chances of being at fault and then ask the men to get tested. 

I did find couples using some form of contraception, but again, it was mostly a woman using pills or an IUD, with statements (minus rage, but with the certainty of norms) such as:

“Woh toh nahi use karenge kuch, mujhe hi karna padega na (my man won’t use a condom, therefore, it’s up to me to use something).”

What About Sterilisation Operations?

Most women above 30 years of age had undergone the so-called sterilisation surgery after their second child, which was a good thing. However, it was always the woman who underwent surgery, and I found no man who had gotten a vasectomy (male sterilisation surgery) done.

When I interacted with a few doctors on sterilisation surgeries, one of them said:

“Hardly any man comes for the surgery. In my 25 years of practice, I witnessed only one male sterilisation surgery seven years ago. I was so excited with the news that I asked my husband if I could see this man!” 

Others said: “We don’t have any specialist doing vasectomy, simply because we have no patients coming in for it.”

As per NFHS (National Family Health Survey) 4 data, against 76.2% women undergoing sterilisation, only 0.5% male sterilisation was reported. The rest of the methods, including condom, pills, and IUDs, contributed to 23.3% of total contraception.

Why Do We Need Contraceptives? 

Reproductive health is intricately linked to issues of women’s and children’s health, the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, poverty, education, gender equality, and human rights. Improving access to reproductive health is thus central to the process of development, as reflected in sustainable development goal 3.7,” according to the Lanclet.

When sexuality is a natural instinct, just like hunger, thirst or breathing, reproductive health becomes key to the overall health and development of human beings. As important as the topic is, it’s gravely neglected.

Men, women and trans people, or girls, boys and trans children, get physically attracted to each other from as early as puberty and are capable of reproduction.

However, in the progressive society we live in, education, career, physical and mental capabilities, as well as financial readiness needs to be considered before conceiving.

Hence, men and women both need to be equally aware of and participate in ensuring the reproductive health of their respective partners. 

Women have a bucket of choices and men just have one contraceptive: condom! (and the permanent method of sterilisation)

The Importance Of Reproductive Health

Given the importance and need of reproductive health, I wonder why there are just male condoms and sterilisation surgeries for men, and so many hormonal drugs for women that actually affect their hormonal cycles.

Every month, there are changes in the hormonal levels of a woman affecting her mood, health, and well-being. Is it really safe to play with them even more? Aren’t the natural, hormonal ups and downs sufficient? Why do we add more through contraceptives?

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Youth Ki Awaaz (@youthkiawaaz)


Except male and female condoms, I didn’t find a single contraceptive without any side effects. Why do women choose them then? Maybe, because ultimately, it’s women who have to take on the burden of childbearing, or abortion in case of an unplanned pregnancy.

If we talk about equal responsibility, I am sure there might be men willing to use some sort of contraceptives provided there is availability of choices.

Men Need To Take On Equal Responsibility

We don’t want the availability of so many flavours in condoms, but we want the availability of choices other than condoms that men can use.

This needs to be done so that men can share an equal responsibility in reducing the unwanted burden of pregnancy, and contributing to reproductive health.

I am not an expert at advising about or criticising hormonal contraceptives, but I feel there should be more research for men to carry the equal burden of using a contraceptive, as well as research on safer contraceptives for people of all genders.

Till then, we need more men to sign up for using condoms, rather than expecting their partner to choose from the available yet not so great options. By the way, condoms also protect you from STDs (sexually transmitted diseases), which no other contraceptives does.  

Featured image is for representational purposes only. Photo credit: Flickr.
You must be to comment.

More from CHAITALI KAMBLE

Similar Posts

By Aakhya Isha

By Sudhanshu Jha

By Rimpit Majumdar

    If you do not receive an email within the next 5 mins, please check your spam box or email us at actnow@youthkiawaaz.com

      If you do not receive an email within the next 5 mins, please check your spam box or email us at actnow@youthkiawaaz.com

        If you do not receive an email within the next 5 mins, please check your spam box or email us at actnow@youthkiawaaz.com

        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 Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
        biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

        Bidisha was selected in Change.org’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