In a unique move, the Uttar Pradesh government has decided to gift condoms as 'shagun' to newlyweds in the state.
The condoms will be part of a family planning kit that ASHA workers will distribute. It will also have oral contraceptive pills, tips and suggestions on better family life, and other things.
The scheme will be launched on World Population Day on July 11.
Condoms for UP newlyweds as 'shagun'
Much needed move considering India's population set to overtake China's
Last month, the UN released the 2017 Revision to its World Population Prospects. India, presently with a 1.3bn-strong population, is predicted to overtake China in seven years to become the most populous country.
Despite this, use of contraceptives in India is abysmal. From 2008 to 2016, contraceptives' use fell 35%. Among men, condom use decreased 52% and vasectomies 73%.
So what is UP doing?
The UP government has buckled up. The 'Nayi Pahal Kit' will contain emergency contraceptives and other items of use for the couple: "pack of towels and handkerchief, nail-cutter, comb and mirror set". There will also be a letter from the health department with relevant suggestions.
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Last month, 146 lacking districts to have 'Mission Parivar Vikas'
This comes less than a month after the Centre announced 'Mission Parivar Vikas' in 146 districts where the Total Fertility Rate (number of children born per woman) is over three.
These districts in Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, MP, Rajasthan and UP add up to 28% of the population.
India's TFR has come down from 2.6 in 2008 to 2.3 now. The goal is 2.1.
Getting over challenges, one step at a time
One prime challenge is illiteracy. But UP National Health Mission Director Alok Kumar says, "The ASHA workers…will brief couples about everything. They will also help clear doubts that may follow."
But according to the latest Family Health Survey, just 12% of health workers even talk to women who don't use contraception.
Kumar says officials and workers will have to maintain records of kits distributed and from couples.
Does literacy play a role in contraceptive usage? Apparently not.
While many believe that states with higher literacy are embracing contraceptives but this is not always the case.
This holds true for Bihar where the use of condoms has recently doubled and oral pills rose 4 times.
However, in Kerala, condom use dropped by 42%.
Karnataka with one the highest literacy rates witnessed "the highest drop in vasectomies, IUCDs, and oral pill use".