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Wednesday 26th October 2016

India's 'morning after' pill use soars

27th July 2010

In India, where attitudes toward safe-sex education are still more conservative than in much of Europe, women are beginning to use 'morning after pills,' also known as emergency contraceptive pills (ECPs), on a regular basis.


Radhika Chandiramani, a clinical psychologist who heads a sexual health organisation, said that children did not get enough education about sex, STIs, and contraceptives to make their own decisions about the pills.

Indian advertising guru Alyque Padamsee said that the main problem was not with the drug companies' marketing schemes, but with the country's sex education in general.

Nevertheless, the Indian government has banned advertisements for the pills, on the basis that the ads were spreading misinformation.

The pills can prevent pregnancy if they are taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex, and are available as over-the-counter medicines in India.

The government reported 8.2 million sales of ECPs in 2009, an increase of 250% from the previous year.

Chandiramani said she felt that, even though people in India were beginning to claim they were sexually liberal, people needed to realise that the pills had long term effects.

She said that the advertisements for the pills themselves had made people regard them as quick solutions with no strings attached.

However, the country is also plagued with poor healthcare solutions and unsafe abortion practices, so there is a good reason why the drugs are available over the counter, especially in rural areas.

Rippon Nath, who owns a pharmacy in New Delhi, said she saw lots of growth in ECP consumers, and that some customers even asked for four boxes at a time.

Regular contraceptives contain the same hormones as ECPs, and the main difference between an ECP and a regular contraceptive is potency.

Divya, a 19-year-old student who recently moved to Delhi, said she liked the pills because Indian men did not care about contraception.

She said that women could not really trust their partners to use contraception, making the these pills necessary.

Anuradha Kapoor, a gynaecologist at a Delhi hospital, said that she understood why women did not trust their boyfriends to use contraception.

She said that, however, women who used ECPs on a regular basis were still misusing the drugs.

Ishita Chaudhry, founder of a support organization for young people in India, said he felt sex education had to start at a grassroots level.

In India, having a child out of wedlock is considered a grave cultural disgrace, and abortion is a taboo subject.

However, fully 11 million abortions are performed in India annually, leading to 20,000 female deaths from abortion-related complications.

One advertisement for an ECP featured a young woman weeping next to an abortion clinic.

A voice in the advertisement suggests that preventing pregnancy using an ECP is better than having an abortion.

While at first the advertisements were seen as part of India's 'new sexual revolution', the government says they increasingly went against medical recommendations.

As a result, the Indian ministry of health has ordered that drug companies be barred from advertising ECPs.

Surinder Singh, India's drug controller general, said that women were beginning to use the pills compulsively, in order to free themselves of anxiety after unprotected sex.



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