Azad Nagar is a small village in the Hunsur taluk of Mysore. It is a village predominantly occupied by Muslim communities. The village lacks awareness programmes relating to contraception, health and education.
“I really want to get the operation done,” said the 20-year-old girl standing in front of me. Asma Begam had gotten married a year back and wanted to undergo tubectomy. I looked at her in utter confusion. She tried to explain her desire for this by saying that her husband did not want to use any other method for birth control.
This was something I noticed all over Azad Nagar. Almost every woman between the age gap of 20 – 45 in the village had undergone the operation. Most women unlike Asma Begam were uninformed of other forms of contraception. And these women were unaware of vasectomy. Few who had an idea about it seemed to believe that their husbands would become weak and unfit to work in the fields.
After a short walk deeper into the village I came across a small house with green and yellow walls. A young girl in her vibrant salwar kurta sat at the entrance of the house. Walking towards her I noticed the woman sitting behind her combing the girl’s hair. The girl was Amreen Taj and the woman’s name was Parween Taj. Amreen had been married to Parween’s son at the age of 18, five years back.
Parween, with a pained look, said: “I have been telling them that Ameena does not need to go through the operation, but they are adamant to get it done. The operation may not be dangerous, but is it really that necessary? I am did not get it done. I’m 55 years old now, and I am still healthy with a healthy family.”
A woman who was washing her clothes in the next house looked up when I posed the question about awareness camps in the village. Mahabubi washed her soapy hands on her saree and said: “We haven’t had a nurse here for over four months. The last time she came, she gave us a few tablets for minor headaches, fever and diarrhea. We never had any awareness programmes.”
After talking to the Azad Nagar residents I went to the closest hospital which was in Hunsur, Mysore district. The light yellow walls of the hospital had an eerie feel to it. There were a number of patients waiting for their turn to meet the doctors. Walking past the crowd I walked towards The District (Taluk) Health Officer’s office. A middle aged woman sitting across the table greeted me with a smile and introduced herself as Dr. Devatha Lakshmi.
Dr. Lakshmi had the opposite to say regarding the conduction of awareness camps in Azad Nagar and its neighboring villages. She said: “We have been conducting frequent awareness camps in the villages. These camps relate to healthcare during pregnancy, polio and AIDS awareness, contraception methods which include both permanent and temporary, and many more.”
When I told her that I was focusing on tubectomy and contraception and its awareness among the villagers, she brought out a big red file. Untying the thread around it she took out a few sheets and placed them in front of me and said: “From April to December last year there have been 1,257 cases of tubectomy and only two cases of Vasectomy. Men aren’t willing to do it because of customs, culture and society.”
“Though there are no side effects to this method of fertility control, men and women tend to blame sterilization for blood pressure and heart problems,” she added.
According to Dr. Lakshmi there have been only a few cases of infection which usually happens if the patient is not keeping him/herself clean.
Heading out of the hospital I could only think of one question that still remained unanswered. If there were awareness camps about contraception methods apart from tubectomy taking place in Azad Nagar, how come most of the women in the village were unaware of them?