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Nearly half of those who underwent permanent sterilization through tubectomy or vasectomy at Mumbai’s civic–run health centres in 2011–12 were in their 20s. Family planning experts say the numbers are proof of the state’s failure to spread awareness about, and promote, the reversible methods of contraception.

According to BMC statistics revealed through an RTI query, 10,770 people went through sterilization at municipal hospitals, clinics and health centres in 2011–12. Of them, 5,336 were in the 20–29 age group. And around onethird of those were below 25.

Apart from highlighting the dependence on sterilization, the RTI data bares the trend of teenage girls going for tubectomy (where fallopian tubes are clipped to prevent the meeting of egg and sperm) till fairly recently.

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'Youths pick sterilization due to lack of awareness'
Highlighting the trend of youngsters going in for sterilization, an RTI query revealed that in 2002–03 as many as 119 girls aged from 15 to 19 underwent the tubectomy procedure. However, such instances then dipped to 10 or 15 a year until it came to a complete stop in 2007.

Thesamedata saysthat a totalof 22,681 men and women chose sterilization at civic and private health centres in 2011–12. This increased to 23,795 in 2012–13.

A family planning expert who works closely with the government said even the high spend on education programmes about temporary contraception methods—such as injectables, condoms and intrauterine devices–has brought little benefit to the uneducated and rural dwellers. "Women who are not working or are uneducated still know of sterilization as the main birth control method," said the expert.

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The findings of the National Family Health Survey–III some years ago reflected the expert’s view. Around 97% of the women interviewed for it knew of tubectomy as the best way of family planning. As against this, 49% knew of injectables and 8% of female condoms. Only 11% women were aware of emergency contraception.

Dr B Paswan, head of department of population policies and programmes at the International Institute for Population Studies, said unawareness about spacing methods—such as condoms, IUDs and pills—could be at the root of so many youngsters choosing sterilization. "They must be having babies at quick succession. Suddenly they have big families and a need to start family planning," he added.

Dr Rekha Davar, head of gynaecology department at JJ Hospital, feels it is a social problem: "When girls marry early, they also finish their child bearing by the age of 25."

VishwanathKoliwadof theFamily Planning Association of India said the use of sterilization should be cut down. "We discourage it but it continues to be the preferred method of the migrating population."

Times of India
27 July 2013, Mumbai, India.

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