Data Point | Contraception and family planning is a woman’s job

The Data Point is a bi-weekly newsletter in which The Hindu’s Data team decodes the numbers behind today’s biggest stories. 

Updated - July 12, 2022 01:58 pm IST

Published - July 11, 2022 02:15 pm IST

Pregnancy test kits and contraceptives on display at a chemists shop, in New Delhi. This photo is used for illustrative purpose only. File Photo

Pregnancy test kits and contraceptives on display at a chemists shop, in New Delhi. This photo is used for illustrative purpose only. File Photo | Photo Credit: V. Sudershan

(This article forms a part of the Data Point newsletter curated by The Hindu’s Data team. To get the newsletter in your inbox, subscribe here.)

Although both men and women have knowledge of various modern contraceptive methods, NFHS-5 data show that women continue to bear the burden of family planning

Awareness of family planning and contraception among Indians is widespread, with over 99% of married men and women between the ages of 15-49 knowing at least one contraceptive method. Still, not all women find their family planning needs being met. While there are many reasons for this, the National Family Health Survey-5 shows that it could in part be because over one-third of surveyed men said that family planning is the woman’s responsibility. The types of modern contraception that are available are in line with this thinking. For instance, pills, intrauterine devices (IUDs), and even the standard days method require the woman to take preventative measures. Hence, it’s unsurprising that female sterilisation is the most known and used family planning method.

IUD: intrauterine device; PPIUD: postpartum intrauterine device; LAM: lactational amenorrhea method

Over the years, the number of women who have undergone tubectomies, the surgery for female sterilisation, is shockingly higher than men who have undergone vasectomies, the surgery for male sterilisation. Since 2014, the prevalence of tubectomies has remained nearly 10 times higher than that of vasectomies.  

Despite knowing about modern contraception, and having access to subsidised birth control methods at primary health centres under the National Family Planning Programme, a significant portion of the surveyed women said that their needs are yet to be met.

The NFHS-5 terms the unmet need for family planning as the: 

“Proportion of women who (1) are not pregnant and not postpartum amenorrhoeic, are considered fecund, and want to postpone their next birth for 2 or more years or stop childbearing altogether, but are not using a contraceptive method, or (2) have a mistimed or unwanted current pregnancy, or (3) are postpartum amenorrhoeic and their last birth in the last two years was mistimed or unwanted.”

Nearly 20% of currently married women between ages 15-49 said their family planning needs are not met. This may be because 33.3% of these women are not using any contraceptives. Also, nearly a quarter of the women interviewed had no demand for any family planning measures. 

Although only 2.9% of pregnancies result in an abortion, nearly half of those abortions occur because of unplanned pregnancies. A lack of spacing, i.e. the last child is too young, accounts for nearly 10% of abortions, a clear connection to the choice some women must take when their family planning needs go unmet. 

Even abortions, albeit a last resort, are not as easily available as an option for women. 

Although Indian law allows women to have an abortion, the abortion must fit certain conditions and its reasoning must be validated by a medical practitioner. According to the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Act, 2021, a woman can have an abortion up to the 24-week mark. The reasons permitted include risk to the mother or child’s mental or physical health or being a survivor of sexual assault, incest, or rape. Notably, under the Act, all women, regardless of marital status, can get an abortion and do not require spousal consent. Only minors need consent from their guardian. 

But a fact-finding report by the Centre for Reproductive Rights and its partners, titled Legal Barriers to Accessing Safe Abortions in India: A Fact-Finding Study, found that due to legal barriers to safe abortion access, there are at least 800,000 unsafe abortions every year, which contributes to 10% of maternal mortality. The report finds that because a medical practitioner must verify the validity of the abortion, women lose the right to make decisions about their bodies. Further, because of social stigma, patients who get pregnant out of wedlock have a much harder time accessing safe abortions. 

For women, especially if unmarried, using contraception itself comes with a stigma. Nearly 20% of men aged between 15 and 49 believe that women who use contraception may become promiscuous, proving that before family planning goals can fully be achieved, social norms and stigmas around a woman’s reproductive health must be addressed.

Chart of the week

The graph shows the average temperature in degrees Celcius across India, in two time periods: 1951-1980 and 2012-2021. The temperature data for each season has been depicted separately. That monsoon rains bring down the temperature and bring relief from harsh summers is conventional knowledge. But data disagrees. According to the figures collected by the Centre for Science and Environment, the average monsoon temperature between 1951-1980 was 0.3*C higher than the average summer temperature in the period. More worryingly, the difference between monsoon and summer temperatures increased to 0.4*C in the last decade (2012-2021).

Fortnightly figures

27%, the decrease in paddy sowing area, that was recorded this year in India until July 1. The sown area decreased to 43.45 lakh hectares from 59.57 lakh hectares a year ago. The farmers blamed it on the high prices of fertilizers.

95,167 tonnes of wheat flour were exported by India in April 2022, which is over a 250% increase compared to a year ago. This surge in wheat flour exports came after wheat export was banned in May. To curb this circumvention, the government has now forced flour exporters to seek permission from an inter-ministerial committee before exporting.

171.46 sq km of glacier area is left in the Drass region of Ladakh, a 3% decrease from what was recorded in 2000. A study published by the journal Environmental Science and Pollution Research found that this significant melting may be due to the growing levels of vehicular traffic in the region, as both sides of the Line of Actual Control (separating China and India) expand their military buildup.

224.3 million people are undernourished in India, according to a report by the U.N.’s State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2020 report. This is a decline from 247.8 million undernourished people in 2004-06. 

Flashback: a look back at how we got here

Non-subsidised LPG price was hiked last week by Rs 50 and is now priced at Rs 1,053 per 14.2 kg cylinder. Ujjwala beneficiaries have to pay Rs 853. The incessant increase in LPG prices was majorly due to the drastic fall in the LPG subsidy amount that was being directly transferred to consumers’ accounts since 2015. In recent days the sharp rise in international LPG prices has added to the burden. This has forced many consumers to go back to unclean cooking fuel, especially in rural areas. Read more, here.

A new airline, Akasa Air, will start commercial operations later this month. The former giant, Jet Airways, too is hiring and may soon commence operations. With the passenger inflow increasing and the festival season ahead, the new and renewed airlines may, in fact, garner early success. But data shows that due to increased fuel prices, the airline industry has not recovered from the losses caused by the pandemic, despite an increase in passenger traffic after the pandemic restrictions eased. Thus, despite an increase in passenger traffic, airline firms continue to suffer. Read more, here.

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