India has a complicated relationship with sex, especially safe sex. We’re citizens of the second most populous country in the world, so sex is obviously not a mystery to us. But, as a society, we’re extremely uncomfortable with talking about our sex lives and sexuality. Whether the Central Board of Film Certification indiscriminately censors sexually-charged content or the government curbs condom commercials claiming they are “indecent and inappropriate for viewing by children,” stigma around sex and sexuality in Indian is perpetuated in a myriad of ways.
An article in Quartz India traces the inception of condoms into Indian society to the 1960s. But, interestingly, even condoms, that are arguably the least sexy and most utilitarian aspect of sex, are considered a symbol of sexual desire and titillation rather than medical protection. Because of the stigma, there’s often a lack of verified information on sexual health in India. For example, although Indians have access to medical treatment, the country has the third largest population of people living with HIV and only 28% of women and 37.8% of men have a comprehensive knowledge of HIV/AIDS. To better understand the state of sexual health in India and put Indians’ sex lives into perspective, we’ve compiled interesting results of surveys conducted across the country.
I. A majority of Indians don’t use condoms
When in March earlier this year, Durex India tweeted about its dismay at the fact that 95% of Indians don’t use condoms, the conversation on sexual health in Indian took off. A Times of India article reported a whopping 400% increased in sexually transmitted diseases over the past 30 years, which isn’t surprising considering Indians seem not to make enough use of condoms. As if this statistic wasn’t enough of a disappointment, #IndiaHatesCondoms began trending on Twitter, leading to Durex India asking why Indians #HateCondoms. From 41% claiming a “lack of feeling” to 22% complaining that it “reduces intimacy,” we, as a nation, seem to have an easy time justifying our actions in the context of unprotected sex. Twitter users responded to this poll citing other possible barrier to condom use like a lack of awareness and stigma and taboo.
II. Just over half of married Indian women use a method of “family planning”
“Family planning” is essentially the use of contraceptives to properly plan when to grow a family, and a majority of married women between the ages of 15 and 49– 57.2% to be precise– make use of at least one method of contraception. The survey also shows that the married women population uses “modern methods” the most at 51.2%, which includes female and male sterilisation, birth control pills, IUDs, Injectables, female and male condoms, and emergency contraception. Close to 36% of these women and only 0.3% of men have used sterilisation methods, 3.5% of women use pills, and 9.1% of them use condoms. A 2006 study by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare showed that traditional methods like “rhythm,” “withdrawal,” and “folk method” are less widely known among the Indian population and that birth control pills and condoms are better known among a majority of women and men, respectively.
Read more about it here: National Family Health Survey (NFHS-3) and Ministry of Health and Family Welfare “India Fact Sheet”
III. The percentage of Goa’s population that uses on condoms for family planning is in the single digits
The Times of India reported that the National Family Health Survey of 2015-16 showed that just over 31% of married women aged between 15 and 49 years of age use modern methods of contraception. A form of modern contraception, condoms are used by only 7.1% of Goa’s population. This figure shows a 0.4% decline in condom use since 2008. Another important fact in the state fact sheet for Goa is that close to 16% of Goa’s female population has been sterilised and that only women have opted for this form of birth control.
Read more about it here: National Family Health Survey-4 2015-16
IV. Internationally made condoms are reportedly too big for Indian men
In 2006, a report in BBC News gained some traction in India because of its amusing finding– that a survey revealed internationally made condoms are too large for most Indian men. Responses from 1,200 men in the two year study conducted by the Indian Council of Medical Research were valuable in collecting data on penis length, “down to the last millimetre.” What the survey found is that 60% of Indian men have penises that are three to five centimeters shorter than the international manufacturing standards, leading to concerns of high condom failure rate by tearing of slipping. Addressing the performance anxiety due to small size, Dr. Chander Puri, a reproductive health specialist at the Indian Council of Medical Research, said, “It’s not size, it’s what you do with it that matters... From our population, the evidence is Indians are doing pretty well.”
Read more here: BBC News
V. A majority of Indian men and women get messages on family planning through television programmes
A move by the Information and Broadcasting Ministry to curb condom commercials has brought to light interesting data. When in July earlier this year, the ministry demanded that condom advertisements only be aired between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. on TV, the National Family Health Survey found that 59% of women and 61% of men recieve family planning education through TV. Labelling condom ads “indecent” for child viewing, the government body sought to remove condom ads that were explicit from daytime airing. The article found that although elderly women, Muslim women, women from rural areas, women with basic or no education, and those in the lowest wealth brackets lack exposure to family planning messages, the little information they do receive is through TV.
Read more about it here: The Times of India
Feature image by: Taarika John for Homegrown
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