According to the United Nations’ population division, Sunday, October 30, 2011 went down in history as the day the world’s seven billionth living inhabitant was born. The Western world’s birth rate is said to be declining as that of Africa continues to rise. By 2100, according to the United Nations Population Division, ‘there will be nearly five sub-Saharan Africans for every European’.
Birth control has for a long time been perceived as a woman’s responsibility due, in part, to the limited birth control options available for men. It’s a contentious issue that most couples rarely talk about and the responsibility of preventing pregnancy is automatically left to the woman.
In Kenya for instance, studies show that only 46 per cent of couples use contraceptives and going by these figures we can now understand why the population in Kenya is escalating at an alarming rate.
According to the official 2009 population census figures there were 38,610,097 people in Kenya. Last year the figure is estimated to have hit 41.6 million. In the census of 1999 the number of Kenyans was 28.7 million. It is estimated that about a million babies are born in Kenya every year.
Many men, especially in the rural areas, believe that contraceptives only make a woman promiscuous and that the role of the woman is to give birth. This has forced women who find themselves in such situations with no option but to dance to the male tune. But a few wise ones have managed to go behind their husbands back and get the injectable contraceptives, which is more secretive.
PLANNED PREGNANCY AND ‘ACCIDENTS’
Some men however, perhaps more so in the urban areas, have found themselves in tricky situations when their partners won’t stop having children even after the couple has agreed that they don’t need any more.
Ideally, the birth of a child is supposed to bring joy to the parents, but this was not the case for David, a 29 year old man, whose second child (a girl) was born two weeks ago. “My first born Jared turned a year old a few months ago, it was not in my plans to get another baby so soon, and she knew it, I feel cheated!” he said.
David’s case is not an isolated one. A good number of men have found themselves in such situations. A good male friend of this Forum correspondent is even contemplating a vasectomy. This way, he says he can control the number of children he wants. “I have one and he is more than enough for me”. When asked what would happen if he ever needed to get some more in future, Michael responded, “you don’t have to sire a child for you to be a parent, there are so many children in the orphanages who would love to have a family of their own, so adoption is an option I can always consider if I ever wanted another kid. Having said that I think its high time Kenyans changed their mentality concerning parenthood”. Well, even though his sentiments are somewhat debatable, Michael has a point.
Stacy, a mother to a three year old boy blames his son’s conception on a failed E-pill. “I swear I took Postinor 2 [the morning after emergency pill] that morning, I don’t know what happened”. Counterfeit drugs and even condoms have found their way into shelves of hospitals and pharmacies in Kenya and such claims cannot be easily dismissed.
The popular contraceptives used by Kenyan women include Depo-Provera, the three-month injection used by 22 per cent of married women, and it’s said to be 97% effective. Pills (92% effective) are used by seven per cent, six per-cent use a traditional method (which range from prolonged breast-feeding, periodic abstinence due to taboos and herbal remedies), while female sterilization and periodic abstinence are each used by five per cent of married women.
Most of these contraceptives have side effects however, including weight gain and heavier menstrual flow.
A BIRTH CONTROL PILL FOR MEN
For birth control to be effective, both the man and the woman must be involved. Although men are not without options for contraception, their options are limited. Over the years, condoms and vasectomy (which is not popular) have remained the only birth control means for men but that is to change soon if a research that is being carried out by the Kenya institute of Primate Research (IPR) in Kenya, materializes. The researchers are in the process of developing a male contraceptive pill that will be based on an immunology platform.
The news was received warmly by many women, who feel relieved that finally they won’t bear the burden solely.
By targeting the male species, the responsibility of birth control will no longer be a woman’s affair, men will now not only have a say on the matter, but a role to play as well.