By Ramya Abhinand
She looked weak and tired. Four deliveries and two abortions had reduced her to a mere frame.
Sangeetha has been my domestic help for three years now, and the least I could do was to offer her a
cup of hot “chai” and hear her out.
As we sat sipping, I delicately framed the questions. “Sangeetha, are you aware of contraceptive
options?” She looked up with a face of guilt. “Didi”, she spoke in chaste Haryanvi, “I do have the
monthly pills that are freely distributed at the charitable hospital. But they make me feel so groggy that I
am unable to do my daily chores. And besides I often forget to have them in the night.”
“Have you spoken to a doctor about it? I am sure there are other options”, I said. Sangeetha replied,
“The doctor suggests surgery but that’s possible only after six months. My blood pressure and HB count
are low at the moment”. I asked her, “What about your husband? He could opt for a surgery or for that
matter use protection”. Sangeetha shot back a surprised look. “You must be joking Didi. Why would a
man ever get an operation done and risk losing his Mardangi? And besides he does not like the use of
protection. So he leaves it all to me.”
I met Rashmi at Starbucks. In a big city, such as Delhi, so caught up are we in our own lives that meetings
with old time friends are few and far between.
As we sat sipping the frothy coffee, I couldn’t help but notice the sullen eyes and the dark spotty
pigmentation on her skin. This wasn’t the same energetic woman I had known a few months back. I
casually remarked on the pigmentation I had noticed. “Oh well, these are just a few of the side effects of
the birth control pill I have daily. With two children to run behind, plus the pressures of my corporate
life, it is the easiest contraceptive option”, she said. Wouldn’t it be easier to opt for a surgery?
Considering it doesn’t come with these side effects”, I asked. Rashmi replied “I have considered the
option, but so occupied am I with work and kids that being hospitalized for 2-3 days for the procedure
“Well then Ajay could opt for a surgery. In that way, you could take care of the kids, manage home and
work too”, I said. She was quick to snap back, “You must be kidding right? When have men ever gone for
sterilization, (except for the forced program during emergency period)?”
“But what about protection? I am sure that shouldn’t be a problem for him. She said, “Ajay isn’t
comfortable. He goes by the popular thought, “Real men don’t use rubber!!!! So he leaves it all to me.
I sat on my bed that night thinking of my conversations with the two women. There seemed to be a
distinct similarity in both- of shouldering contraceptive responsibility in entirety. In a patriarchal society
such as ours, most women find it easier to pop a pill, rather than convince their partner to use
protection. Even if this means, infections and menstrual problems from usage of intra-uterine devices
or, mood swings, nausea, depression or weight gain from oral pills. With male sterilization, not being
well accepted in society, the no-scalpel vasectomy procedure is seldom opted for, though this procedure
is less invasive and less risky than the tubectomy. The tag of “Namarad” by society prevents many,
despite this not having even an aorta of truth.
Why are things so skewed up? From false ego, to lack of information and a strong prevalence of social
taboos, the reasons are plenty to prevent our men from being a part of contraceptive decisions.
Recently, laboratories on a global level have been innovating contraceptive pills for men. It could well
take a long time for this to see the light of the day. But when it does, would it be accepted with open
arms- the way women have taken to the pill?
I ponder on…
Ramya blogs at on www.meotherwise.com about people and culture. I host a guest post on this blog every Monday. If you would like to contribute a guest post, do mail me at email@example.com. I welcome sharp, social commentary on issues relating to gender, humorous posts, parenting, fashion, beauty, environment, food, and basically everything except religion and politics.