Indian men have a problem, they hate condoms. This is what it results in
It's World Population Day and we have a problem. India's burgeoning population is a known problem but here we are talking about something which is less known but is as big a problem-Indian men don't like condoms.
To be precise 94.4 per cent of them don't.
No, don't get us wrong. We aren't saying Indian men are dumb and don't understand that condoms are important for them, their family and most importantly the country.
Of course, Indian men do understand the significance of condoms. The National Family Health Survey (NFHS)-4 showed that 97.9 per cent men who are sexually active know the importance of condoms, while overall 94 per cent men in India are aware of condom use.
But Indian men are also self-centered. Their selfishness is steeped in patriarchy and dominance. They know a condom is important, may even value the knowledge. But to put the knowledge into practice...nyeah...Indian men are indifferent to it. Too much of an effort for them, you see.
Now, before you make up your mind, let me remind you this is not true just for the bland, unappealing and depressing Nirodh condoms, distributed free-of-cost by the government.
This national distaste for condoms is despite markets being flooded with strawberry, litchi, banana, peach, chocolate, pan, aam panna, kaccha aam, dotted, extra dotted, feather light, ultra thin, lubricated, super lubricated and tens of other varieties and designs prepared by brands these days to make condoms appealing.
But Indian men are a breed that refuses to budge.
No number of ads featuring Ranveer Singh, or the old Bollywood-themed suhag raat scenes or the double meaning punchlines like 'is raat ki subah hi nahi' (there is no end to this night after using XYZ condom) seem to have changed their distaste for condoms.
It's then no rocket science why India's population is not just exploding like a bomb but like an active volcano in the Pacific 'Ring of Fire'. Last month, the United Nations in a report projected that by 2027, India will surpass China to become the world's most populous country.
The latest reports on the state of health in India -- National Health Profile 2018 and the National Family Health Survey (2015-16) -- show that nearly 95 per cent married couples (in the age group 15-49 years, when fertility is at its peak) do not use condoms.
The prevalence of condom use is lowest in Andhra Pradesh where only 0.2 per cent men use condoms as a family-planning measure. This is followed by states like Telangana (0.5 per cent), Tamil Nadu (0.8 per cent), Bihar (1 per cent) and Karnataka (1.3 per cent).
The reluctance towards using condom among Indian men can also be understood from the fact that even in the state/Union Territory with the highest prevalence (Chandigarh), nearly 73 per cent men don't use condoms.
In India's neighbourhood, countries like Pakistan (9.9 per cent), Maldives (11.7 per cent), Iran (13.7 per cent), Sri Lanka (6.1 per cent) and China (8.3 per cent) have greater prevalence of condom use, reveals a 2015 United Nations report on trends in contraceptive use.
Globally speaking, Congo has (13.9 per cent), Bostwana (35.8 per cent), Hong Kong (50.1 per cent), Japan (46.1 per cent), Russia (25 per cent), the UK (7 per cent) and the US (11.6 per cent) have higher percentage of condom use.
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN MEN DON'T USE CONDOMS?
Two things are likely: (a) you may end up producing a baby; and (b) you may end up getting a sexually transmitted disease (STD).
True that even without using a condom, it is possible to contact an STD or end up producing a baby, but the odds are heavily against this. The risk involved in unprotected sex is significantly high for any rational person to take it.
Some people also use withdrawal as a form of family planning but the uncertainty and risk involved in this too are quite high.
These are the biological repercussions of not using condoms. But does reluctance in using condoms also impacts power equations between men and women? Does it end up defining responsibilities in a family? Is condom just a contraceptive or can its use, and the lack of it, have an overbearing influence on women while the men remain carefree and irresponsible?
WHY CONDOM IS NOT JUST A PIECE OF LUBRICATED RUBBER
To put it in the simplest terms, the primary purpose of a condom is to prevent unwanted pregnancy and protect sexually active people from contacting STDs. Its significance increases if a person has multiple sex partners.
If one lists down the different methods of family planning, using a condom is among the easiest and cheapest. Compare it with methods like male/female sterilisation, which is very effective but also permanent in nature unlike condoms which give greater flexibility; or pills whose effectiveness remains uncertain and thus questionable; and intrauterine devices (IUDs) and post-partum IUDs which may be effective but are not very comfortable for women.
Besides effectiveness, condoms and male sterilisation are the only popular and effective methods of family planning where men can take an active role in shouldering responsibility of family planning.
Most family planning methods overbearingly put the onus of family planning on women. In terms of power equations, the absence of more family planning methods for men put women at a disadvantageous position.
Family planning is not solely the wife's responsibility or burden. The husband too has an equal responsibility in ensuring that the family size is controlled.
However, ground reality is at some variance with this idealism.
NFHS-4 revealed that 37 per cent surveyed Indian men were of the opinion that contraception is women's business and men should not have to worry about it. Besides this, 20 per cent men also believed that a woman who uses contraception may become promiscuous i.e. have multiple sex partners.
Indian men are not only reluctant to use condoms, but their reluctance is even stronger towards going for sterilisation (vasectomy) which is a very effective method of family planning (in other words population control).
NFHS-4 data show that only 0.3 per cent Indian men take the responsibility of family planning upon themselves and opt for male sterilisation.
The reluctance to use condom or opt for sterilisation among Indian men shifts the entire burden of family planning on women. It is the inability of Indian men to shoulder responsibility of their own family that puts women at the receiving end.
In terms of national interest, it is no enlightened knowledge that India urgently needs to put a check on its population growth. People like FMCG tycoon and yoga teacher Ramdev have advocated stripping off voting rights from couples having more than two children. Recently, Uttarakhand became the latest state to enact a law that bars anyone with more than two children from contesting panchayat elections.
While the intentions behind such laws are noble, it remains debatable how democratic they are, especially when it is not extended to legislators at the state and national level.
As far as controlling population, a lot can be achieved if men own up responsibility and start using condoms. Other measures can follow suit.
Postscript: If you are an Indian and a male and want to do something great for the country, here is your golden chance. Strip off your reluctance towards using condoms, opt for male sterilisation when the time comes and share this simple gyan with fellow Indian males. You will be a national hero.
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