By Dhriti Mehta
Having the freedom to choose and the ability to decide when one wants to be a mother,
should be taken for granted, right? After all, it’s #mybodymyrules.
According to the Economic Survey of India 2017-18, only 32.8% of Indian women use female-controlled reversible contraception. However, the statistic that is truly alarming is that about 46.5% of Indian women do not use any contraception method at all. These statistics go to show that while almost half the population of Indian women continue to have little to no say in the decision of having children, even the ones who use contraception are more likely to do so to decide when they want to stop having children rather than when they want to conceive.
With the seemingly more free and transformative identities that Indian women have adapted in recent years, it is shocking to note that there is also a slight decrease in the proportion of women who partake in discussions about contraception. The numbers are down from 93.3% in 2005-06 to 91.6% in 2015-16.
The influencing factors for women, who do have a choice in thematter, are generally those of biological timeliness, financial stability, steady and committed relationships and mental well-being. And of course, whether or not they have a desire to have kids at all.
However, societal pressure in India remains to be the biggest obstacle for Indian women who are expected to eventually step down from their jobs, or to take more flexible employment routes when they begin a family at a younger age. According to the survey, this attitude and lack of choice for women has outcomes that “affect other milestones early on in a woman’s life; for example, women may not get the same access to employment that men do.” Thus, the marked decrease of 12.3% in number of employed women in the last decade as shown in the survey comes as no surprise.
With such issues being commonplace in India, the one thing that we can establish from the survey data is that in order for women to truly take control of their lives, they must first have irrevocable control over their bodies. This is only possible if the decisions they make and the repercussions of these decisions are free of societal and family pressures. Women need to be free enough to be able to identify what they want. And is that really so much to ask for?