These men exhibit a wonderful understanding of their wives’ needs and a cool maturity by opting for vasectomy

When it comes to family planning procedures the gender divide is alarmingly biased against women in our country. Those who opt for vasectomy number in single digits and those who undergo tubectomy are always in the hundreds. What is the root of this discrepancy?

There are many myths that haunt men and women about vasectomy. One major misconception that keeps couples from vasectomy is that a man's strength and masculinity will be lost. While women want to protect their men’s strength and men their masculinity, what prompted a handful of men to ignore the fallacies and undergo vasectomy?

“First love your wife, understand her body compositions, and of course you should have the guts to face the scornful gaze of your neighbours,” says S. Palanivasan, retired army person, who underwent vasectomy four months ago.

The thirty-nine-year-old Palanivasan did plenty of homework beforehand. He spoke to a couple of doctors and convinced his wife to agree to a simple non-scalpel vasectomy (NSV). “As men we cannot share women’s burden either in begetting children or feeding them but we can lessen their burden by opting for NSV, a five minute procedure,” he says.

For Mohankumar of Sellur, Thanthai Periyar was the inspiration. Mohankumar has followed the principles of the great activist right from his marriage. “There are umpteen numbers of myths that need to be exploded. Steps should be taken to demystify them,” he says.

Mohankumar knows about tubectomy (women's sterilisation) and its procedures. “In fact,” he says “NSV takes only few minutes and men are out of operation theatre. Whereas after tubectomy, women should not lift weight and must take rest for a stipulated period. If not, it might result in complications.”

For Umapathy of Melur, his wife’s health condition prompted him to undergo NSV. When the doctors told him that his wife was weak and fragile, he decided to undergo NSV. “I have heard about NSV little bit. It is a surgery where there is no blood shed. So I decided to undergo it,” he says.

“Lack of awareness is the only reason for the unpopularity of NSV. There might be one or two failures and discomforts. But human mind often link the accidents to NSV, which is not true most of the time,” he says.

The Family Planning Association of India (FPAI) performed NSV on 256 men from 1978 to June 2012. In contrast, over that same period, 1,38,338 women opted for pubertal sterilization (done within 42 days after delivery) and 56,878 women for mini-laparoscopy (done over 42 days after delivery).

C. Packialakshmi, branch manager, FPAI, says the gender divide regarding family planning is predominant in Madurai District. In 2011, while 13,958 women underwent tubectomy, only 72 men had undergone vasectomy which is far below the Central Government target of 10 per cent male sterilization.

Balamurali, senior civil surgeon, Usilampatti Government Hospital, says that the vasectomy procedure is simple and the process takes just five to 10 minutes. After an hour of rest, men can collect their drugs, certificate and government’s remuneration of Rs.1500 and leave the hospital. He says a tiny hole will be made in the scrotum to cut the vas deferens, the tube that carries sperm. The cut ends are closed to restrict the flow of sperm.

On the other hand, when a woman is sterilized, the abdomen is opened and stitched and she is hospitalized for at least two days for observation. Besides, she needs to take complete bed rest for a month.

Free camp

The FPAI has implemented family planning policy in the district since its inception in 1977. Once a month, the association conducts a free vasectomy camp for men. Throughout the year, tubectomy is done for women.

Accompanied by husband, mother and mother-in-law, 29-year-old Kanthimari is getting ready for tubectomy. “It has been practice. Why should I take risk when my neighbours and relatives have apprehensions about vasectomy?”

The men who underwent the procedure and agreed to be interviewed for this article say that all they needed was guts and unconditional love for their women. Statistics show the mirror to our society’s pattern of leaving the burden of family planning to women. All we can do is to wait and watch whether that changes in the long run with more awareness.