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Why is India’s condom usage so low? First ‘condomology’ report notes social factors

Citing data from NFHS 4, the report says nearly 80% of men aged between 20 and 24 did not use a contraceptive with their last sexual partner.

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New Delhi: Half of India’s population is less than 24 years of age while 65 per cent is below 35 years. To harness the opportunity of this young nation, it is important to ensure the well-being of the youth — and reproductive health is a key factor here. But things aren’t well on that count, according to India’s first-ever ‘Condomology’ report.

The term has been derived from ‘consumer, condom and psychology’, and the report has been prepared by Condom Alliance — “a shared value collective of condom market players and other stakeholders to improve the well-being of young people in India”.

The report details how an increasing “number of unplanned pregnancies, unsafe abortions and the rise in the number of STIs serve as a significant barrier for achieving the nation’s goal of sustainable development for the youth”.

Citing data from the National Family Health Survey 4 (NFHS 4), the report says nearly 80 per cent men aged between 20 and 24 did not use a contraceptive with their last sexual partner, “indicating the need to urgently address an imminent crisis in reproductive and sexual health”.

Attempting to address why India’s condom usage is so low — at 5.6 per cent — the report says social conditioning and societal judgment about protected sex and the use of contraceptives continue to be barriers that India’s youth is yet to recover from.

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What the report reveals

According to the report, only 7 per cent women and 27 per cent men “ever used” condoms during pre-marital sex, while just 3 per cent and 13 per cent, respectively, “always used a condom”.

This data was sourced from the NFHS-4 study, which was carried out in 2014-15.

Despite government led campaigns to spread awareness about contraceptives, India’s condom market has seen a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of just 2 per cent over the last few years, the report says.

“The global data highlights the cultural and societal differences between the Indian youth and the western counterparts with regards to sex and contraceptives,” the report notes.

Moreover, India also ranks the third highest in HIV cases across the globe, it says.

Citing anecdotal evidence about hesitancy and lack of awareness only make the situation worse, the report adds that questions over the need of a condom, the correct way to use it, and how to buy it, emerged as key reasons behind the hesitancy.

‘Much ground to cover’

Ravi Bhatnagar, a member of Condom Alliance and Director of External Affairs and Partnerships in Asia, the Middle East, and South Africa at FMCG giant Reckitt Benckiser, underlines an urgent need to take steps to tackle condom hesitancy.

“From the implementation of the recently launched adolescence education programme in its true spirit, to sensitising chemists for smoother purchase transactions to removing broadcast restrictions on condom advertisements — there is still much ground to cover,” he says in the report.

Vithika Yadav, a member of Condom Alliance and founder, Love Matters, India’s leading digital sexual and reproductive health and rights information platform, says, “Our nation’s current demography demands open, honest and engaging communication around contraception”.

She says it is extremely imperative for the youth “to not fear shame or stigma when discussing about what is safe and healthy with regards to sex and relationships”, adding that the “report is an attempt to bring these conversations into mainstream society”.

Also read: Tamil politicians want ‘The Family Man 2’ banned, claim it shows Tamilians, LTTE in bad light


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