Picture This: Is family planning a gender issue or a religious issue?

15 April 2021

Ashwini Deshpande

Ashwini Deshpande

Professor of Economics, Ashoka University



Contraceptive use in India is low compared to the global average. 76% women in the reproductive age group globally have their family planning needs satisfied by a modern method of contraception.

53.5% of married women in India used any contraceptive method in 2015-16, according to National Family and Health Survey data (NFHS-4). This was a decline from 56.3% in 2006.

The most common method of contraception in India is sterilization. 36% married women in used this method in 2016, which is higher than the global average of 24% in 2019.

Family planning is seen as a religious issue in India, with Muslims stigmatized for supposedly higher fertility. In our weekly Picture This edition, we illustrate why family planning or contraception use should be seen as a gender issue, not a religious one.

The first set of maps shows the district-wise distribution of men opting for sterilization. We see that the usage is low and not different between Hindus and Muslims. The second set of maps shows the same distribution for women. Again, we see virtually no difference between Hindu and Muslim women.

The stark difference is between men and women, not between Hindus and Muslims. We have shown the differences in the most commonly used form of contraception or family planning. But the story remains the same with every method of sterilization. Explore the CEDA data portal to check for yourself!

If you wish to republish this article or use an extract or chart, please read CEDA’s republishing guidelines.