Critics point out that India’s population control policy is soft towards the male participant, which has led to many negative implications for women. Highlight those implications and also point out what changes are required in India’s population policy. (150 W/ 10 M)

Mentor’s Note:

In the intro, mention the reason for the over population in India and how India was among the first nations to start the family planning programme.

In the main body, discuss the issues pertaining with sterilization campaigns targeted for women and how they are an issue for her (health, reproductive, rights, choice, lack of information). Show the gender biasness of family planning programme in India.

Before ending the answer, provide some solutions to the issue like involvement of men in the decision making process, informed choices, doing away with the target approach of sterilization in states etc.

Base your conclusion on what Amartya Sen had proved: “improvements in women’s education and healthcare automatically result in smaller families without any need for authoritative population control policies.”


Model Answer:

The two main common causes leading to overpopulation in India are: the birth rate is still higher than the death rate; and the fertility rate is much higher compared to other countries. The above two causes are interrelated to the various social issues in our country which are leading to overpopulation. The Indian government’s focus since 1947 has been to try and control this exploding population. This has meant that family planning has become a pivot for all population goals to be met. The initial Five Year Plans focussed on two aspects: firstly, reducing population as a developmental goal, and secondly, improving women’s health through birth control.

The family planning programme was and continues to be hugely dependent on sterilisation. India’s population control policy has been a mixed bag of success, but evidently, there have been various negative implications for women. The family planning programme shifted its focus from male vasectomies to female sterilisations in the 1980s. But it had various implications on women’s health and rights like:

  • Overwhelming responsibilities imposed on women in family planning programme for achieving fertility reduction.
  • There was serious neglect of reproductive health care
  • Neither tubectomy nor Copper T Method is known to be suitable for all women. Yet, in the rush to meet targets, these methods are widely promoted and their adverse effects on women ignored.
  • India has one of the world’s highest rates of female sterilisations.
  • Women in India, continue to constitute 98 per cent of the sterilized population; this despite the fact that the procedure is less complicated for men
  • Sterilisation is a risky surgery that may lead to internal infection or bleeding, injury to internal organs and even death.
  • Prevalent methods of birth control were an infringement on women’s fundamental rights.
  • Any form of involuntary, coercive or forced sterilization violates ethical principles, including respect for autonomy and physical integrity.
  • Family planning policies in India – which focus on the sterilization of women – prioritize population control over the autonomy and rights of individuals, transferring the entire burden of population control on to women in a country where the use of contraceptives is still not common in the rural areas.
  • Information is not made available in accessible formats and local languages, and so informed consent is not obtained from the women before sterilizations are carried out.
  • Huge myth that men become ‘weak’ after sterilisation. Little has been done to dispel that myth.
  • Entire public health system is such that men are not even addressed.
  • Lack of emphasis on vasectomy, a procedure in which the vas deferens is sealed off to prevent sperm from entering the seminal stream.
  • Recent study has found that only 1.5 percent of funds were being used to promote spacing methods, while 85 percent were being spent on female sterilisation.
  • For 77 per cent sterilised women, sterilisation was the first attempt at any sort of family planning, to make the point that India was not doing enough to promote non-surgical contraceptive methods.

Way Forward:

  • no coercion for family planning
  • use of media for spreading the awareness about family planning among the rural masses, especially women.
  • monetary compensation to those who opt for permanent measures of birth control like sterilisation and tubectomy.
  • focus should be on spreading information about alternative, less risky and permanent, forms of contraception
  • autonomy and choice of women must be protected
  • claims that sustainable development policies are contingent on mass sterilization must be resisted.

While family planning is a necessary measure it cannot be at the cost of women’s rights, dignity and quality of care. Instead, we need to open up the possibilities, provide them with a wide range of quality contraceptive methods for spacing, and give adequate medically accurate information including the benefits and risks, so that women and men can choose the method they want to adopt. It is time to get the men involved while improving the quality of life of females in India right from the time when they are born.


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