Men's sloppy ways in birth control

Data from the National Family Health Survey-4 indicates that women continue to bear the overwhelming burden of adopting birth control measures. Statistics reveal persisting reluctance of Indian men to undergo sterilisation surgeries, with only a miniscule number of them agreeing to go for vasectomy. Of the 15 states and Union territories, whose NFHS-4 data was recently made public, in four i.e. Tamil Nadu, Puducherry, Goa and Andaman and Nicobar Islands not a single man agreed to undergo vasectomy. The situation in Karnataka, West Bengal, Bihar and Tripura was found to be marginally better; 0.1 per cent of the male population opted for sterilisation. Vasectomy is a simple surgical procedure that is performed under local anaesthesia. Yet men are unwilling to undergo this surgery. It is the most effective and reliable form of birth control. Yet it has few takers. Myths and misperceptions cloud decisions relating to vasectomy worldwide. Men fear that surgery will impact their virility. A few men are willing to use condoms but even this is not a popular choice, as men fear that this will affect their libido. Given the reluctance of men to take responsibility for contraception and birth control, it is women who are compelled to undergo sterilisation procedures although tubectomies are more complex than a vasectomy.

NFHS-4 data reveals that reluctance to undergo sterilisation surgeries is as common in illiterate and economically backward states as it is in the literate and better off ones. Tamil Nadu is known for its high literacy and relative economic prosperity. Yet there men are strongly opposed to vasectomy. Patriarchal mindsets and lack of access to reliable information could be responsible for men’s reluctance to adopt birth control measures. Messages on birth control measures and other public health issues that are spread during the government’s health campaigns do not reach the men as most of the health workers employed in the door-to-door canvassing are women. Reliable information on vasectomies thus fails to reach men.

Removing the many myths surrounding vasectomies and condoms must be an important focus of India’s family planning and public welfare campaigns. The perception that issues of pregnancy, childbirth and birth control are ‘women’s issues’ and hence of no concern to men needs to change. The importance of shared responsibility on rep-roductive health issues must be stressed to both men and women. The many benefits of birth control must be explained. For instance, the use of condoms by the male not only protects a woman from pregnancy but also, it is an effective way of preventing transmission of the HIV virus.

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