For the best experience, open
on your mobile browser or Download our App.

257 Million Women Worldwide Have Unmet Need for Safe, Reliable Contraception: Report

According to the UNFPA report,  44% of partnered women and girls in 68 reporting countries do not have the right to make informed decisions about their bodies on matters of sex, contraception and seeking health care which indicates that nearly half of all pregnancies are unintended.
Representational image of birth control pills. Photo: CC BY-SA 4.0

New Delhi: Around 257 million women worldwide have an unmet need for safe and reliable contraception, according to the State of World Population (SOWP) report 2023 released by United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). Moreover,  44% of partnered women and girls in 68 reporting countries do not have the right to make informed decisions about their bodies on matters of sex, contraception and seeking health care.

The report titled “8 Billion Lives, Infinite Possibilities: the case for rights and choices,” released on April 3, mentioned that unmet need for contraception has barely fallen in decades, moving from 12.2% in 2000 to 10.6% in 2023 among partnered women. Moreover, looking forward, projections to the year 2030 indicate an increase in the number of women with a need for family planning to 1.2 billion and, because of population growth, 262 million women would still have an unmet need for modern contraception, up from the absolute number of 257 million in 2023.

As per the report, the most recent data from 68 countries show that an estimated 44% of partnered women are unable to make decisions over health care, sex or contraception which indicates that nearly half of all pregnancies are unintended,  an abrogation of women’s basic human right to decide freely and responsibly the number and spacing of their children.

 “So many women lack control over their bodies, including the right to have children – to decide when they want to have them and how many,” said Poonam Muttreja, Population Foundation of India’s (PFI’s) Executive Director,  in a statement.

According to the fifth round of the National Family Health Survey (2019-21), India’s unmet need for contraception is 9.4%, which underlines that even when couples want to adopt a contraceptive method, it is not available to them, the PFI mentioned . Moreover, one out of every four women in India are married before they turn 18.

The SOWP also underlined that India’s population is fractionally higher than China’s in 2023 — India at 1428.6 million versus 1425.7 million for China. Further, the report stated that with the world having hit the 8 billion mark in November 2022, an alarming discourse around population issues gained momentum.

However, the PFI expressed concerns citing that these issues tend to be viewed in isolation, with women and their right to bodily autonomy taking a backseat and rising or a declining population is often viewed with anxiety. The governments across the world respond with policies aimed at increasing or decreasing fertility, and in the process, hold women’s bodies to population targets, the organisation mentioned. 

Muttreja said, “India had done many things right. The government has made contraceptive options available to people, while programmes such as Mission Parivar Vikas are reaching out to districts which are underserved. However, even as India becomes the most populous country in the world, the programmatic discourse should focus on ensuring that comprehensive and equitable services are available to people regardless of where they live or which strata of society they belong to. At the same time, we need to make sure that girls and women are not pushed into early marriages and pregnancies, which limit their aspirations. We urgently need to ensure the education and skilling of our young population.”

“In spite of progress on many fronts, patriarchy is deep-rooted in the country, and this gets reflected in the performance of the reproductive health programme too. Almost the entire responsibility for family planning is on women. We need to move towards greater involvement of men in family planning. It is also important to for more girls and women to get better educated, join the workforce, delay marriage, and postpone pregnancies,” Muttreja added.

Make a contribution to Independent Journalism
facebook twitter