World Population Day is celebrated on July 11 across the globe to focus attention on the urgency and importance of population issues worldwide. Initiated in 1989 by the then Governing Council of the United Nations Development Programme, it is observed to raise issues like overpopulation, underpopulation, or populations growing too fast among others. This year, the theme for World Population Day 2018 is: “Family Planning is a Human Right” as it marks the 50th anniversary of the 1968 International Conference on Human Rights at Tehran, where for the first time family planning was declared as a human right globally.
While the world celebrates World Population Day, for India, it is yet another chance to self-introspect and focus on effective family planning methods. India is currently the second largest country in the world with a population of 1.3 billion – only behind China which has a population of 1.4 billion. According to a 2017 UN report, the two most populous countries in the world contribute to 19% and 18 % of the global population, respectively.
The concerning sign, however, is that the report predicted that India will suprass China around 2024. The report also added that the world’s population is 7.6 billion and is expected to reach 8.6 billion in 2030. It said that around 83 million people are being added to the population every year.
Even though access to safe, voluntary family planning is a human right, about 214 million women in developing countries who want to avoid pregnancy are not using safe and effective family planning methods. This is happening because of various reasons like lack of access to information, services or lack of support from their partners or society.
According to National Family Health Survey 2015-16 (NFHS-4), in India, the current use of family planning methods among married women (15-49 years) is 53.5% and unmet need of family planning was 12.9%. The unmet need refers to those women who are fecund and sexually active but not using any method of contraception though wishing to postpone the next birth – spacing or not wanting any more children-limiting.
A greater promotion of family planning and ensuring access to preferred contraceptive methods for women and couples is needed as it secures the well-being of woman and child. It also supports the health and development of communities.
For this, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the World Health Organization (WHO) have recognised nine standards that must be met in every community – non-discrimination, available, accessible, acceptable, good quality, informed decision-making, privacy and confidentiality, participation and accountability.
The survey revealed that female sterilisation is the most widely used method of contraception in India and accounts for over 75% of the modern family planning methods used. Male sterlisation, meanwhile, accounted for just 0.62% despite being safer, quicker and easier.
The government has certainly take a few steps in the last few years to ensure effective family planning methods. It has launched a number of initiatives like the promotion of male sterilization, a compensation scheme for sterilisation acceptors, etc to encourage men to share the burden. Over the last 10 years, India also saw a dip in child marriages with 27 per cent of girls getting married before their 18th birthday as against 47 per cent a decade ago, a UNICEF report stated.
This has helped in reducing the teenage fertility rate to half from 16 to under 8 per cent.
The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare also launched Mission Parivar Vikas to rev up its efforts in the family planning in 2017. Its overall goal is to reduce India’s overall fertility rate to 2.1 by the year 2025. Despite this progress, the country has a long way to go.