[VoxSpace Life] Male Contraceptive Pills In The Age Of Patriarchs, Padhosan And Sperm Theft

Idea Of Male Contraceptive Pill Is Selling Like Hot Cakes, What Are The Connotations?

Amidst rising paranoia of sperm theft, sexism, and patriarchy, female contraceptives- a culmination of years of struggle by second-wave feminists, is openly challenged. Male contraceptive pills are on the way, and we are quite divided on its reception in India. Why we had to wait for decades after the 1950s when Margaret Sanger came out with women’s birth control pill? It was a pipe dream in western parts of the world, the research was deliberated since the pill could aggravate mood swings, acne, lower sperm count, and virility for low testosterone level in men. There could be many other explanations for this. Pharmaceutical executives believed that a female contraceptive pill could be the best of both worlds. While it would give them greater control on their body, on the other it would bring women one-step closer to equality.

Male birth control pills continued to remain off the hook during the entirety of Margaret Sanger’s life and afterwards. It remained curtailed for long, waiting perhaps for a miraculous invention that would grant the male pill free of side effects or pain. Till then the onus of responsibility fell upon women, not that one can opine that consumption of these pills is any safe for women either. Besides, in popular opinion, it was unbecoming of a man to take responsibility for family planning, contraception, and birth.

The Evolution Of Male Contraceptive Pill

“Male birth control study nixed after men can’t handle side effects women face daily,” read a headline on USA Today

Besides condom, withdrawal, and vasectomy, one more trinket is added to the shelf as the latest triumph of science and gender equality-the male birth control pills. The relevancy of male pills in a relationship that constantly lacks contraceptive trust borders on ambiguity. In the Indian context, male birth control device might just prove a double-edged sword, perpetuating into sexual violence and unwanted pregnancies. In India, at least 15.6 million abortions take place annually, putting women’s health at stake. Bamboozling money out of unsafe abortions performed without the supervision of a doctor is on the rising. Under these circumstances, how effectively can male pill save a woman’s body from turning into a battleground?

Women’s Biological Right To Motherhood With Sanger

In an interview with Mike Wallace, Margaret Sanger puts her faith in women’s right to deny pregnancy pretty straightforward. One of the 11 children, Sanger remained a stranger to most of her family members. Most importantly, Sanger’s mother’s untimely demise is attributed to her repeated pregnancies, and being a Catholic and a woman, there was no escape for her. In Sanger’s argument, she mentions:

“…In many cases, the finest relationships have nothing to do with bearing a child.”

In a nutshell, male contraceptive pill aims to abolish sole proprietorship of women over pregnancy, giving both the partners equal say in pregnancy, if at all. Historically, a steady intake of contraceptive pills meant panic attacks, nausea, hair loss, and even cervical cancer in women. On the health front, the new reality of male contraceptive could be a matter of genuine respite. However, as long as there is even one single instance of unwanted or forced pregnancy citing the sanctity of marriage (till 2018 marital rape was constitutional in India) or denial of motherhood to women,  the intervention of male contraceptive pill would symbolize a complete monopoly.

It could further aggravate an already problematised issue. In remote rural areas of Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh, the question of motherhood rests on household patriarchs like a mother-in-law or even village sammelan better than husband and wife. Any positive connotation of the pill could be easily subverted or used against a woman’s choice to motherhood that tremendously alters her identity and psychology. Unless regulated by consent, the situation could manifest itself in a number of discernible problems for women who would still be the one “left holding the baby”, as the saying goes.

To Rejoice Or Not?

21st-century feminist Gloria Steinem points out to the dichotomy of gender in one of her interviews on women and equality:

“It seems to me what affects men is called political and what affects women is called cultural.”

Without working at the grassroots level, it seems awfully precarious of us to bathe in the glory of this recent invention! It is nor will ever be, any phenomenal solution to worry-free sex from a woman’s perspective. While shared responsibility of having a child seems a far cry, nonetheless, we can still hope!