India has decided to throw its weight behind the civil society on issues related to family planning, and articulate its rights-based approach at a summit scheduled in London in the next few weeks.

India has kept away from planning family policies since the 70s, and incorporated population stabilisation programmes in the health policies focussing on sexual and reproductive health rights and women's empowerment. While the Centre has discouraged a targeted approach and spoken against providing incentives for adopting family planning measures, States have often been found to be adopting these measures.

In addition to making sure that the need for contraception for women in developing countries can be met, the international meet at London will also aim to generate unprecedented political commitment and resources from developing countries, donors, the private sector and civil society to meet the family planning needs of women in the poorest countries by 2020.

A resolution passed at the end of a day-long consultation with civil society organisations here on Friday said there was a need to focus on an equal or balanced approach for contraceptive methods.

‘Building a movement to make sure that every family is a planned family, every mother is an empowered healthy mother, and every child is a wanted and healthy child,' it said.

Talking to reporters after the consultations, Tewodros Melesse, Director General, International Planned Parenthood Federation, said an integrated health policy was needed to provide comprehensive family health services and stepping up of public spending on health and family planning was necessary to reduce maternal mortality.

He added integration of family planning and maternal and child health services, women's empowerment, and participation in programmes were important. Guaranteeing timely and steady availability of contraceptives, improved health facilities, including counselling services and skilled providers were a must. Programmes to end child marriage, delay childbearing, and increase birth spacing were equally important, Mr. Melesse said.

Proper sex education

Responding to queries from reporters, Mr. Melesse called upon India to formulate an age and culture-appropriate comprehensive sex education system, by evolving consensus among the stakeholders, parents, and taking into confidence civil society.

“Sex is natural and human, and it cannot be just educated alone. Some forces may be stopping it deliberately. There are different tools for sex education, and there are issues if it should be so explicit. The Government should convene a meeting of all concerned, including civil societies, parents, and religious leaders to evolve consensus,” Mr. Melesse said.

“The government should frame the sex education policy in accordance with the education policy, by evolving consensus of all concerned. The government needs to build a national coalition for this,” he said.

There are an estimated 12.5 per cent women in India, who want to delay or avoid a pregnancy, but aren't using or have access to an effective method of family planning. There is also a huge unmet need for immediate post-partum contraception among women who deliver at public sector facilities, under the various schemes run by the government for mother and child.

The most prevalent and commonly used method in India remains sterilisation, with 38 per cent of women going in for sterilisation, and only one per cent of men opting for this choice.

Keywords: family planning

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