Covering Deprivation, Government, Health

Women face the scalpel but men run away

In 2016, only two men underwent vasectomy, whereas 1257 women underwent tubectomy, says Taluk Health Officer

Hunsur: On a recent Village Health and Nutrition Day (VHND), a sterilization camp was organised in Hunsur taluk mostly by female staff and only women were approached to attend the meet because men were either at work or had locked themselves in refusing to attend the meeting.

Earlier, when general health camps were held in villages, men were invited too. But, women were always in greater attendance than men. Men and women hardly came to health camps together and even if they did, their awkwardness with a subject like sterilization would make them flinch and quit the camp.

Since, participation of men was negligible, specific campaigns were directed at couples, women, pregnant women, and also for men, especially to explain the No Scalpel Vasectomy (NSV) procedure.

“When specific camps for men were organised, we went from door to door and invited men to assemble for the awareness talk. But, once the news of our arrival reached a man, he would instruct his wife to say, ‘He is not at home,’ ” said MB Juby, Junior Health Assistant, Hangudu Primary Health Centre (PHC).

A man who had undergone vasectomy was also taken in front of men during a camp. Men attend such camps, say yes, express their fears, sign up for further tests and then, fail to turn up.

“The work men do in the area is strenuous, with long hours of standing, squatting, and lifting. Many work as coolies or coffee plantation labourers in Coorg, especially tribals. Even though men are told that it doesn’t affect their physiological functions, they refuse to undergo the procedure. They fear loss of wages,” said Taluk Health Officer Dr. Devatha Lakshmi.

For those below poverty line, the incentive to undergo the operation is Rs.1100 for women and Rs.1250 for men. And, for those above the poverty line, it is Rs.650 for both men and women. But, along with economic concerns, societal pressures restrain men from stepping into a sterilization clinic.

Scalpel razes rubber and powders pill?

Dr. Lakshmi argued that sterilization beats temporary measures such as condoms and contraception, which are not 100 per cent effective.

“Women forget to take contracepives. Non-availability of condoms or unwillingness to use a condom or to procure it leads to unprotected sex. More failures happen due to temporary measures than permanent methods,” she said.

Answering the question whether sterilization was the only method to help family planning or condoms and contraceptives can also be used, Senior Health Inspector Shivananjay said that although condoms are supplied for free, the decision to use it is between husband and wife, and ‘often, they decide not to use it.’

“We can’t rely on people’s self-control. Can we?” he added.

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