For years, Feminists have propagated (rather successfully) that women are oppressed because ‘men’ have ‘burdened’ them with the responsibility of giving birth to more children. It has become a quintessential part of feminism to show this as oppressive patriarchy and confining women within four walls of their homes and not letting them free and take part in economic activities and be independent. However, the reality as revealed in the Indian govt. data is completely the opposite.
When it comes to family planning, feminists try to portray men as more responsible for population increase. The arguments against men have always been that men are averse to using contraceptive methods and hence it’s always women who are at the receiving end. Feminists say it’s against women’s reproductive rights to force women to use any contraceptive method. This, in particular, is evident in the percentage of women who are sterilized.
When we look at the Indian govt data gathered from the NFHS-4 survey shows that it’s indeed the Indian males who want more children (even if that is only a slightly higher percentage compared to women).
More Men Want Additional Child
Feminist argument that men do not need to bear children and undergo ‘extreme pain’ of pregnancy for 9 months, and so they want more children, is in fact supported by the NFHS-4 survey as well –
From the above graph, we see that even though for couples having no children, more women wanted additional children, the trend changes after they have one child. We see that for couples having 1 child or more, the percentage of men who wanted additional children was marginally higher compared to that of women.
So, if you only see data up to this level you may think that feminist claim is right.
However, to understand if these marginal differences really matter, you need to understand the bigger picture.
More % Men Do Not Want Additional Children, Too
Even though from the above graph you find that a slightly higher percentage of males wanted additional children, that completely outweighs the reality when we see the data for males and females who ‘Do Not Want Additional Children’.
National Family Health Survey (NFHS) data 2015-16 shows that when it comes to clear preference of not having more children, a significant percentage of men do not want additional children –
So, we see that, even if we factor in both males and females who want an additional child and who do not want an additional child, males who do not want additional child significantly outweigh those who want additional children at all levels.
Now let’s look at this data in greater details w.r.t. the number of living children a couple has.
NFHS-4 shows that when a woman has no child, 66.8% want another soon and 13.4% want another later. In total, about 82.9% women wanted another child (2.7% wanted another but didn’t know when), compared to a total of 66.9% men who wanted another child while they had no children. In this category, about 22.7% of male respondents said they didn’t want any more child and only 4.8% of women respondents said so. So, data supports that when a couple is childless, a man is less likely to want to have another child.
1 Living Child
Out of the couples that had 1 living child in NFHS-4 survey, 61.5% of women wanted another child compared to 63.5% men. Even though here the proportion of male respondents were more, the proportion that didn’t want another child was also higher for males. 29.8% male respondents compared to 21.8% females said they didn’t want any more child.
2 or More Living Children
The numbers drastically change when the number of living children is 2 or more. The desire for more children decreases both for males and females. For women with 2 children, only 9.8% wanted another and 12% men wanted another. But for those who didn’t want any more child, the proportion of males were clearly more too. About 77.6% of male respondents said they didn’t want any more child compared to only 36% women. Others were undecided, sterilized or declared infecund (for women, not able to bear children).
The trend of women who clearly didn’t want any more child (said ‘NO’ to additional child) remained lower for up to 6+ living children. When the respondents had 3 living children, 82.7% men and 34.6% women said they didn’t want any more child. With 4 living children, the percentages were 84.6% and 40.3% for the male and female respondents respectively. Out of the parents who had 5 children, 86.1% fathers wanted to stop reproducing compared to only 47.3% mothers.
6+ Living Children, Still Want More
Even with 6+ living children, only 59% of women respondents said they didn’t want any more child compared to 87% men.
So, we see a clear trend that when it comes to clearly stay away from reproducing more children men willingly stay away. Women (even those having 6+ living children) do not want to stop reproducing. This is surprisingly true when we see more women are in fact sterilized compared to men.
More Women Are Sterilized
If we look at the sterilization data of NFHS-4 survey, we find that more women than men were sterilized. On an average 36% of all Indian married females compared to <1% all Indian married males were sterilized.
In this aspect, it is pertinent to mention that in recently drafted National Policy For Women. one item was to selectively sterilize men instead of women. However, as we see from the data of persons who did not want more children, we find that men by choice do not want more children and so they actually don’t need sterilization for family planning.
Women, on the other hand, do not want to stop even when they have 6+ living children. So, selective sterilization of women makes more sense. Now you know how feminists have over the years propagated a wrong message that men burden women with reproduction. The reality, as revealed by govt data is just the opposite. More females than males are interested to reproduce.
Selective Sterilization And Equal Rights
The graph below shows the overall percentage of respondents who either are ‘not’ interested in more children or who are already sterilized.
The graph clearly shows why it is important selectively sterilize females to reach equality in the reproductive ‘rights’ of both genders.
There is another major problem when considering women’s rights with respect to sterilization. Isn’t sterilization of a woman against her will is subversion of her rights? In these cases, aren’t we trying to suppress her desire to reproduce more?
Another argument is that why sterilize anybody? Why not use other methods of birth control. This becomes especially significant when we see that approximately 36% of all modern birth control measures used is sterilization of women. We will understand this when we see what the modern contraceptive methods India is using currently –
Modern Contraceptive Methods Used by India
While it is important to know that overall about 46.5% of India do not use any contraceptive method. The contraceptive pill making companies may see a huge market out there (can’t rule out another Padman (see how Padman fooled you – here) style movie on this) but the modern contraceptive methods used by Indian women look like this –
Source – National Family Health Survey, 2015-16 (NFHS-4)
It is pertinent to know that about 2.2% of rural women and about 2.4% of urban women use ‘withdrawal’ method for population control. 3.5% of women are using a method called ‘Rhythm’ for birth-control. In this method, they abstain from sex on some fertile days of their menstrual cycle.
Is Female Sterilization Sexism?
From the discussion above we clearly understand that female sterilization is the most prominent method of population control used by Indian families. 36% of all methods used is female sterilization and this selective sterilization can only lead to equality in reproductive rights for male and females.
We also see that even though the percentage of men who want an additional child is slightly higher compared to that of women, men who clearly do not want additional children is significantly higher compared to women. This maybe because men are responsible for providing for all these additional children. So, men ‘naturally’ want to stay away from reproduction. However, women naturally do not want to stop reproduction (as the data confirms). So, when men naturally do not want to reproduce there is no need to sterilize them. Women are sterilized because it’s them who do not want to refrain from reproducing, so if men are forcefully sterilized that will be punishing men for a choice made by women.
Why Sterilization and Not Anything Else
Now the question is why sterilization at all? Why not using some other contraceptive methods like using condoms? Here we need to understand that India is a poor country. No method that is not cost effective and sustaining will succeed in India. If some people are still practicing methods like rhythm and withdrawal, that itself shows how much self-control these people are showing. Sterilization as a method is the most cost-effective method that can sustain for the long term it is the best choice for Indian couples.
Here, we also need to consider the life risks of an infant and the mother when a child is born out of an older mother. So, it is safe for both the child and the mother (and also for the country) to stop one’s reproduction when one has a sufficient number of living children. Since women are clearly more desirous of having children as the NSS data reveals, it makes more sense to sterilize them for their better health. Selective sterilization of males, in this case, would mean, punishing men for a problem (population explosion) that they are not responsible for. The National Policy for Women fails in this aspect to address the problem fairly. We can’t blame patriarchy or male domination to the decision leading to selective female sterilization which is mostly for women’s own benefit and for the benefit of their offspring.