The National Family Health Survey 5 says a large number of men surveyed continue to place the burden of contraception on women, and female sterilisation continues to be the most used contraceptive.

Representative image of a silhouette of a man and a woman: Indian men want women to avoid pregnancy — but aren't okay with contraceptivesImage for representation: Picxy.com/Dreamworks
news Health Tuesday, May 10, 2022 - 16:02

In a trend that has continued over the years, a considerable number of men in India place the onus of contraception and family planning on women, the National Family Health Survey (NFHS-5) 2019-2021 report has found. Across India, about 35.1% of men surveyed believe that contraception is "women's business and a man should not have to worry about it," while 19.6% of them think that women who use contraception may become promiscuous. The survey was conducted among men of ages 15 to 49 years.

These perceptions are largely prevalent in the south Indian states too. At the same time, female sterilisation continues to be the most popular contraceptive method used among married women of ages 15 to 49 years. While 66.7% of the people surveyed all over India used some method of contraception, a massive 37.9% opted for female sterilisation, NFHS-5 says. 

Among the south Indian states, nearly half the men surveyed in Telangana said contraception is women’s business, while 44.1% men surveyed in Kerala said that women who use contraception may become promiscuous. 

Men's contraception-related perceptions in southern states according to NFHS-5

While the overall use of contraception has gone up from 53.5% to 66.7% compared to NFHS-4 (2015-16), the percentage of married couples opting for female sterilisation has also gone up from 36% in the previous survey to 37.9% in the current report. The male sterlisation rate has remained the same, at 0.3%. And while only 9.5% of the respondents said they used condoms, this is an increase from the 5.6% use of condoms as seen in the previous NFHS-4. 

Use of contraception in southern states according to NFHS-5

While NFHS data indicates that men tend to place the burden of contraception onto women, a few studies have also indicated that at the same time, many men also want to control women’s decisions when it comes to family planning. According to a 2014 study on masculinity and son preference in India by the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) and United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), more than half of the men surveyed (54%) said that they wouldn’t want their wife or partner to use contraceptives without their permission. Another survey by IndiaSpend in Bihar found that only 18% of the women surveyed had a say in family planning discussions with their husbands. 

"It's a matter of concern that female sterilisation remains the most popular method of contraception, showing that the onus of family planning continues to be on women," Poonam Muttreja, Executive Director of Population Foundation of India, told PTI. Context-specific policy and programmes will be needed for states passing through different stages of the demographic transition, Poonam said. "Our experience shows that targeted social and behaviour change communication campaigns can address social norms, harmful practices, and promote male engagement in family planning," she added.

The NFHS-5 survey work has been conducted in around 6,10,000 sample households from 707 districts of the country, from 28 states and eight Union Territories, surveying women aged 15 to 49 years and men aged 15 to 54 years. 

Sample size from southern states surveyed in NFHS-5

With PTI inputs

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