The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Burden of family plan on women

Case I: Sumitra Chatterjee, a 36-year-old housewife, underwent sterilisation despite the doctor’s advice that her 40-year-old husband was in better physical condition to adopt sterilisation. Sumitra’s husband was the kind of man who will not budge from the idea that sterilisation would cripple him for life.

Case II: Sadhana Chanda, a 40-year-old domestic help, told her husband she would stay at her sister’s place for a few days. What Sadhana did not tell him was that she would undergo sterilisation there. Having given birth to five children, she had to get sterilised without her husband’s knowledge. There was no point telling him about it. He was against sterilisation as children, to him, were “God’s gifts”.

Sharing of contraceptive measures between male and female partners might be the policy of the state government as per Central directives but that is certainly not what is happening.

Figures with the government show that many more women in the state have been carrying out the responsibility of adopting contraceptive measures than men. Despite measures like the hassle-free no-scalpel vasectomy (NSV) — a male contraceptive process — and implementing several “information, education and communication” programmes across the state, there has been no change in the pattern over the past five years.

The woman, at least in most cases, still has to “bear the burden” of adopting contraceptives.

The number of men adopting contraceptive measures, including the conventional condom or sterilisation (vasectomy), has come down. At the same time, more women are adopting contraceptives like intra-uterine devices, oral pills and sterilisation (tubectomy).

For the past four years, the government, as part of the Reproductive Child Health Programme of the Union health ministry, has been trying to realise the policy that the contraceptive burden is shared between male and female partners, but to no effect.

“The programme mentions that family welfare must be gender sensitive. But it is tedious and difficult to implement such a programme in a society that is not gender sensitive in the first place,” said B.R. Satpathi, the assistant director of health services, maternity and child health.

“We have been consistently trying to promote no-scalpel vasectomy for the past two years. This has resulted in an increase of vasectomy in some areas, but the result is far from satisfactory,” said Satpathi.

The reason behind the failure, Satpathi said, is not medical but social. “In a male-dominated society, where the major burden of sterilisation, no matter how little the pain, has to be borne by the woman, it is difficult to change the trend in a short time. Which is why, we are focusing on training-cum-service camps.”

However, there is no specific time frame within which the government intends to bring about a parity in the figures.

“Conventional vasectomy is no longer acceptable to people, and the new NSV method requires special training, which is being imparted among small groups of doctors from time to time,” Satpathi said.

“Though the training for doctors is very simple, it still has to be carried out.”

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