What should you call it – family planning or contraception?


One child or two? Just one, thanks. It’s too hard to raise any more. Oops, looks like it’s going to be two. Yeah, I thought I wanted only one too, but what can I say? Call it god’s grace - he makes all our plans. Uhhm. I’m pregnant again - third time. Am I having the baby? Well, I have to, don’t I? I can’t possibly kill a child. Kids are god’s gifts.


No, they’re not. They’re accidents. At least, the ones you have this way are. It always makes sense to plan your kids, which means it makes sense to use contraception. Uhhm, we don’t call it contraception here, I say quickly. We call it family planning (we’re a respectably married couple). We did the ‘needful’, but it still happened. Ah, you reply, with the light of understanding in your eyes; that’s quite a probability. Everyone knows that condoms provide only some 97 percent guarantee, even when they don’t pop or tear. It’s exactly why gynaecologists recommend using at least two kinds of birth control at the same time, to minimise the risk even further.



It’s obvious how the term family planning came into being. You want to plan your children - you want to make sure you don’t have any ‘god’s gifts’ all of a sudden. Do family planning and contraception mean the same thing, then? Think about what the two connote. The first is the outcome of the second. Protection is the physical aspect, while making sure your family size remains an ‘acceptable’ one, according to the two-child norm, is the sociological aspect. You can continue to be a ‘respectable’ mom if you’re just talking about how you’re not planning to have any more children. Even if it implies doing the deed, it’s hidden behind a screen of family values. Contraception, however, blatantly suggests a sex life. No no! How can you be heard mentioning that to anyone? Somehow, we still like to pretend that we found our children in baskets floating on the river, or that they were born through our ears like Karna.


One more thing. All the surveys that the Indian government has initiated on the use of protection have so far considered only married couples as subjects. The Ladies Finger discusses a study by the National Family Health Survey (NHFS-4) showing that contraception in India has dropped by six percent in 10 years. Why? They speculate that it’s because the average age of marriage has risen too. People won’t have to start family planning early, as they won’t have sex till they’re married, and since the wife’s fertility is limited to the same number of years as it was earlier, contraception has obviously declined. This means that there’s no way under heaven or above hell that they’re even going to find out if unmarried people are using condoms, IUDs or pills. Is India so prudish as to ignore pre-marital sex even when it comes to gathering data?


Imagine what would happen if single women decided to throw birth control to the winds, since they’re being very carefully ignored anyway. They’d have kids, which meant that they’d have a family. Illegitimate, in the eyes of society, but a family nevertheless. Would that, at least, make the government include them in contraception - ouch, sorry, family planning - surveys?