According to the Nepal Demographic and Health Survey (NDHS) 2016, there is a 24% unmet need for family planning in Nepal — a quarter of women who need contraceptives are not using them. A report by Population Services international (PSI) Nepal found that unmarried youth aged 15-24 and married women aged 20-24 are the groups that use contraceptives the least.
Married women like Parvati Thapa at a clinic in Bajura last month (left), normally tended to use contraceptives after their first child, and exposure to information about family planning through health workers and current users of family planning, as well as talking about it with husbands or relatives.
Unmarried youth were likely to discuss family planning only with their sexual partners and most used condoms over other methods, which were bought and kept by the male partner. In contrast, married women visited health facilities themselves and chose the type of method they wanted.
Unmarried youth, especially adolescents, had a higher unmet need and were more vulnerable to stigma associated with family planning. The report argues that the term ‘family planning’ only applies to married women and their plan to have children, whereas there are many contraceptive users who have no intention of having children, or use contraceptives to prevent sexually-transmitted diseases (STDs).
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When a woman goes to a public health facility for contraceptives, a register is filled out, which includes a column for ‘husband’s name’, which is another deterrent for unmarried women. Though the husband’s name is optional, there is no column for the wife’s name when it comes to male contraceptives like condoms or a vasectomy.
A report by the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) about sexual and reproductive health says complications in pregnancy and childbirth are the leading cause of death among girls aged 15-19 in low-income countries like Nepal. Unwanted pregnancies also hamper women’s education and economic independence, and impact their family life, fuelling an intergenerational cycle of poverty and poor health.