Apr 28, 2023

The Law Around Contraception in India

Recently, the United Nations’ Department of Economic and Social Affairs projected that India is set to become the world’s most populous country by the end of April, 2023, with a total population of 1,425,775,850 people.  According to the United Nations’ latest projections, India’s population is expected to reach its peak size around 2064 and then decline gradually. India’s next census is scheduled for 2024 and will help ascertain the data collated by the United Nations. 

Population control has been an issue of concern for Indian public policy for a while. In fact, in 2019, a Population Control Bill was proposed in Parliament, but later withdrawn in 2022. However, another issue that we should consider in this context are the existing laws around reproductive health and contraception in India. 

What is contraception? 

Contraception is a measure used to prevent pregnancy through the use of contraceptives. Contraceptives can be any methods, devices, drugs or surgical procedures that help to prevent a pregnancy. 

What is the termination of a pregnancy?

Termination of a pregnancy or abortion is a way to end a pregnancy either by administering certain drugs to the person or through surgical intervention. 

How is contraception different from termination?

Contraception is the method of preventing an unwanted pregnancy by undertaking steps before an embryo has been implanted in the uterine lining. Abortion is the intervention undertaken after implantation has occurred. 

You can read more about the laws surrounding abortion in our explainer here

The law around contraception in India

The K.S. Puttaswamy judgment recognised women’s constitutional right to make reproductive choices, as a part of personal liberty as guaranteed under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. 

The Supreme Court of India in Suchita Srivastava & anr v/s Chandigarh Administration stated that,  “It is important to recognise that reproductive choices can be exercised to procreate as well as to abstain from procreating. The crucial consideration is that a woman’s right to privacy, dignity and bodily integrity should be respected. This means that there should be no restriction whatsoever on the exercise of reproductive choices such as a woman’s right to refuse participation in sexual activity or alternatively the insistence on use of contraceptive methods.” 

Who regulates contraceptive services in India?

In India, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare regulates contraceptive services under the National Family Planning Welfare Program. Under The Family Planning Policy, the Government of India encourages couples to adopt the use of contraceptives. Contraceptives are provided free of charge in all Sub-centers, Primary Health Centers (PHCs) , Community Health Centre (CHCs) and Rural Family Welfare Centers, District Hospitals, etc. throughout the country.

What methods of contraception are available in India?

  • Spacing Methods: 

These methods are reversible and can be used by people who want to have children in the future. 

  1. Oral Contraceptive Pills:  These are hormonal pills that women have to take, preferably at a fixed time everyday. These pills, under the brand name MALA-N, are procured centrally and distributed to various States/Union Territories (UTs), Railways and Defense establishment under free distribution scheme. They are also doorstep delivery to the beneficiaries by ASHA workers- Accredited Social Health Activists, at a minimal charge.  
  2. Condoms: Condoms offer protection from unwanted pregnancies as well as from Reproductive Transmitted Infections RTIs and Sexually Transmitted Infections STIs. Under the brand name ‘Nirodh’, they are made available to acceptors free of charge through Primary Health Centers and subcenters in rural areas and through hospitals, dispensaries, MCH centers and post-mortem centers in urban areas. 
  3. Intrauterine Devices (IUDs): IUDs containing copper, commonly called Copper-Ts, are an effective method for long term birth spacing. These are also centrally procured and distributed based on need. 
Permanent Methods

These methods are generally considered irreversible.

1. Female Sterilization:  

  • Minilaparotomy: A method of female sterilization that can be performed by a trained MBBS doctor. It involves making a small incision in the abdomen. The fallopian tubes are brought to the incision to be cut or blocked. 
  • Laparoscopy:  This method involves inserting a long thin tube with a lens in it into the abdomen through a small incision. This laparoscope enables the doctor to see and block or cut the fallopian tubes in the abdomen. It can only be performed by a trained and certified MBBS doctor or specialist.

2. Male Sterilisation:

 Vastectomy: The medical practitioner locates each of the 2 tubes that carry sperm to the penis (vas deferens) through a puncture or small incision in the scrotum. They cut or block them by tying them closed or by applying heat or electricity. It is important to continue using an alternative method of contraception for the first three months after sterilization till no sperms are detected in the semen. 

For more information on contraceptives in India, check out this infographic.