CHENNAI: Sterilization and family planning statistics are heavily skewed against women, according to the fourth round District Level Household and Facility Survey (DLHS) that covered over 42,000 households across the State and that was recently published by the Union Ministry of Health and Family welfare. In Tamil Nadu, 51 per cent of women against a mere 0.3 per cent of men have undergone sterilisation between 2012-2013.
“Be it sexual health, reproduction or pregnancy, the burden is always imposed on women,” says Geeta Sethi, Secretary General, Family Planning Association of India (FPAI), an NGO that promotes sexual health and family planning.
“Every individual who wants to have a family should take equal responsibility for everything that comes in the way. Sterilisation is not a woman’s concern alone. However, the gender bias continues to prevail,” she said.
The current survey indicates that while female sterilisation in rural areas is as high as
52.2 per cent, it was slightly lower in urban areas which recorded 48.9 per cent. However, there was a very small margin of difference among men who were sterilised - as low as at 0.3 per cent (urban) and 0.2 per cent (rural). The last round of DLHS survey revealed that even with a lesser sample size of 32,000 households, the figure was over 54 per cent for women and 0.2 percent (rural & urban) for men.
Experts say that most men skip vasectomy and instead force their wives to undergo sterilisation procedure, as they fear it may hamper them personally.
“There is a big taboo attached to men when it comes to birth control. They feel that it would hamper their masculinity or make them impotent. It thus automatically becomes the onus of the woman,” said P Muniappan, retired demographer and member of FPAI.
“Hardly a few, mostly the educated ones, come forward for vasectomy,” he adds.
“Recently a man came to us, who wanted his wife to be sterilised. I asked him why can’t he volunteer instead as it is only a one minute procedure for men and they will not have to endure as much bleeding or complications like women do. But he was hesitant and glared at his wife, who eventually started convincing me she would rather do it instead,” says a senior specialist from a renowned hospital.
In its latest monthly review, the Directorate of Family Welfare claims that the numbers have skyrocketed with 87 per cent women and 15 per cent men opting for the sterilisation programme.
“The situation in Tamil Nadu is mixed as rest of the country, which is unfortunate.
While the State has excellent programmes relating to family planning, gender biases continue to worsen the state of women here. If we want a healthy population, we must get rid of this stigma and educate people.
That is the only way,” says Geeta Sethi.