70% Of Indian Women Aren’t Aware That Being Denied Contraception Is A Form Of Intimate Partner Violence, Finds Survey
Being a woman in our country is not the most profitable, or comfortable. We live in a culture that has embezzled our autonomy and bodily agency. Women’s bodies are seen as shares to be owned, some by her husband, some by her caregivers and some of it by our society in general. Nobody cares about what a man does with his body—whether he is wanking in private, losing his virginity, or choosing to not have intercourse with his partner. Men can wear anything they like, and at the most, people will make grossed out faces at men whose underwear refuses to respect the periphery of his pants. But a huge chunk of our society will deem a woman promiscuous if her bra strap is showing. With so much social conditioning, many of us are not aware of our right to autonomy. So when a woman is denied contraception, little does she know that she is being violated at the very molecular level of humanity.
The statistics of a recent survey show a very shameful side of our culture, one that reduces the sanctity of marriage to a brass-necked power-play, which inequitably has women pinned down to the very bottom. The survey has witnessed participation from 500 married women in 10 cities by online parenting platform Momspresso and the United States Agency for International Development’s SHOPS Plus project. According to the survey, only 42% of women believed sexual coercion to be a form of violence. No wonder marital rapes go highly underreported in our country.
The survey revealed a very scary side to marriages in India and it’s how our right to contraception is violated. In fact, most women are so used to not considering themselves to be truly autonomous found nothing wrong with being denied contraception. That’s a whopping 70%! “Denial of contraception, which disempowers women and violates their reproductive rights, is a form of violence that has not received the attention it deserves,” said Sangita Patel, USAID-India Health Office Director.
“Four out of five (84%) respondents said that the decision to use contraception was taken jointly by both the husband and the wife. About 35% were not using any kind of contraception but one-fourth said it was a matter of concern for them. Around 32% also did not know where to seek help from regarding use of contraception. Those who did, mostly turned to relatives and friends and less than 35% were aware of helplines and online forums,” reported Times Now.
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In fact, most women are largely unaware of the different methods of contraception. 73% are aware of male condoms but only 56% of women are aware of contraceptive pills and 30% of intrauterine devices. “It is ironic that the onus of using the contraceptive is on women but the choice is not with her,” says Parul Ohri, chief editor, Momspresso. “Women are taught that their primary duty is being a mother, so because of this social conditioning she herself feels guilty if she is even thinking about contraception.”
But it’s the woman whose body will undergo changes if she gets pregnant. It’s her body that will have to bear the strain of delivering a child, or even opting for an abortion. That makes it solely a women’s decision whether she’d like to use contraception or not. “Women need to realise that being denied any choice about their body or health is a form of violence and violation,” Ohri says. “There needs to be more awareness that contraception is as much a right as any other decision regarding their body.” It sucks that women are not aware of this right.
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If stealthing, which is the act of piercing holes in a condom, is rape, how is denying your wife the right to avail contraception not sexual violence? Last year a British man was jailed for stealthing, since consent to sex was given on the condition that contraception will be used. Failing, intentionally, to fulfil that condition violated the consent and hence constituted rape. And yet, most women in India are being sexually coerced by their husbands, and they don’t find it to be abuse. They are being denied the right to bodily agency and yet, they are unaware that it constitutes violence. This is saddening.
We need sex education in India that is not abstinence-based. It needs to teach consent, and bodily agency over anything else. UK has already made it compulsory in schools. Sexual health charity Brook told Cosmopolitan UK, “Brook welcomes the new change in legislation that means from 2019 relationships education is to be made compulsory in primary schools and relationships & sex education will be compulsory in secondary schools. By teaching young people from an early age about friendships, feelings and boundaries, they are better equipped to develop healthy attitudes towards relationships later in life.”