Page 1 of 2
What completes a family? Children, no doubt. But before the maternal and paternal instincts kick in, stop and think! There are questions to be answered before taking the plunge into parenting.
Plan well, so you can be ready to face the future without any doubts or regrets...
IT’S YOUR RESPONSIBILITY
In the year 1982, the blockbuster movie Satte Pe Satta, starring Amitabh Bachchan, had a scene where the character Ravi, played by the Big B, is given a pack of condoms by the magistrate right after he weds the heroine.
Ravi is taken aback for a moment but accepts the pack and moves on. Though it may seem part of the humour, the scene actually contains an important message – ‘Be sexually responsible’. In the year 2011, the commercial of Idea – a mobile service provider, shows Big B’s baby Abhishekh addressing the issue of population stabilisation through the use of 3G. We doubt the use of 3G can prevent the mass population from being sexually active, but it certainly draws our attention to family planning and contraceptives. With a population of 1.21 billion (as given by the Census of India), it is important to address these issues head on. What prevents any of us from doing so, is lack of proper information and guidance.
A visit to the head office of the Family Planning Association of India (FPA) is one way of getting matters into order. “Since 19501-52, the family planning programme is in the country. It’s in operation and people know about family planning. But the acceptance level is not as commensurate as expected that we can make a dent on the fertility rate,” says Vishwanath Koliwad, secretary general of FPA India. “The fertility rate has come down, so it has decreased the population to that extent but it’s not enough. So, for a country like ours we need to pursue family planning. When we say family planning, it should not be only a sterilisation-oriented programme. There should be more people accepting contraceptives. Because today, India is a young country, the younger population is more than the older population. So, they require spacing methods like delaying the first pregnancy and spacing the second child. So, they need contraceptives. Which is why we need to enhance or increase contraceptive acceptance rather than sterilisation. That’s what the programme should drive at,” he affirms.
The FPA works for sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRH). However, Koliwad expresses regret as the programme hasn’t met with much success in India. “If we go to the rural areas, child marriages are still taking place. The average age of marriage in India is 16-17 years. So it means that in 50 per cent of marriages taking place in the country, the bride’s age is less than 18 years, which is the legal age. Considering the entire country as a whole, the family planning programme is not that successful. Political will is one hindrance. Except the health minister, none of the elected representatives talk about family planning. They participate and promote mass child marriages. These are the issues on which they need to act! Secondly, some of the programmes have not been able to reach the right people. After the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) in 1994 took place, the entire programme throughout the world became a very broad-based one on reproductive health. When it became a reproductive health programme, in India, unfortunately it lost focus on family planning. Thirdly, people use religion to disregard family planning. Religion doesn’t say that you should not have a small family, or a healthy baby or a healthy mother. Every religion is in favour of that. But still, the mindset hasn’t changed much,” he grieves.
WHAT ARE SEXUAL REPRODUCTIVE RIGHTS?
The cabin of Tushar Deshmukh, director – resource mobilisation, FPA, is filled with posters on ‘Prevention of child sexual abuse’, a soon-to-be-launched sex education service on mobile phones, as well as contraceptive awareness. Tushar, who is passionate about the cause, also displays the national award trophy presented to FPA India in the late 60s for its animated film on family planning titled Baap Re Baap. He explains how the FPA moved beyond family planning and broadened its programme to include all sensitive issues related to sexual health. “In 1949, a group of women started this organisation. At that time, only family planning was addressed with regard to sterilisation and abortion. As time passed, we realised the need of the hour was to expand our basket to include sexual reproductive health issues. Right from prenatal and post-natal, we expanded our services to adolescents and youth. In the 1950s, like-minded organisations came together and formed the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), which is now an accredition body for all family planning associations across the globe. We are part of the South Asia regional office of the IPPF,” he says.
Tushar highlights the five focus areas of the FPA, “We provide access to the people who are socially or economically deprived of services or information of SRH. We address these issues with the policymakers at the district, state and national level. We have interventions across the country with in-school and out-of-school adolescents for safe abortions, and lastly we also have programmes for HIV/AIDS. Counselling is a very important tool which we have. Our outreach programmes increase the foothold to our services. We have cases wherein five generations of women from the same family have come to us. This is where our success lies,” he affirms.
Dr Shamala Dupte, the assistant director (medical) at FPA, reiterates the organisation’s commitment to help couples make informed choices when it comes to a planned parenthood. “The programme focuses on generating awareness about the sexual reproductive rights that every individual has, so they can take an informed decision. All our clinics provide a safe and legal abortion. The government of India has legalised abortion based on five indications. The five indications are very cleverly designed and worded. If the health of mother or baby is at stake, if there are any congenital anomalies in the baby, if there is a contraceptive failure and if the couple is not economically sound enough to take care of the baby, then the woman can undergo an abortion. This is the legal part of it. The safe part is vis-à-vis the procedure. The provider has to be certified and recognised by the government; the provider should be an allopathic doctor who has undergone training to provide abortion. The place or facility is another aspect. The Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) law, which was introduced in 1971, clearly states the procedure in which the abortion is conducted, the hygiene and sterilisation of equipment and the aftercare. First trimester abortions are performed at all our clinics whereas second trimester abortions are provided in a few, wherein you need services of a qualified gynaecologist,” she stresses.