HomeIntroductionOverview of
the consortium
Report &
 Report & Recommendations
Back to Table of Contents
Controversial Issues in EC Introduction : A Debate

Will easy access to EC undermine morality and responsible sexual behaviour?

– Dr Sujata Singi, AIIMS– Dr Alka Sinha, AIIMS

Human sexuality is a lifelong process with biological, psychological and moral consequences. During adolescence, coping with sexual feelings and controlling sexual drives become urgent tasks that are made more difficult by today's society. Recent studies documented a dramatic increase in the frequency of sexual activity among teenagers as well as decrease in the age at which sexual activity begins. This has measured an entropy and hence it is said. "It is no longer diamonds, but easy access to Emergency Contraception that is a girl's best friend" till she marries.

• >15 million of the population below 20 years of age become mothers each year.

• >100 million acquire new STDs.

• The rate of teenagers with HIV/AIDS has shown a steep rise.

The main reasons for these are :

• General lack of will-power and moral strength among young people.

• Lack of adult role models.

• Sexual exploitation of the young, particularly by mass media and industries, and

• Beyond all this, easy access to emergency contraception gives an extra mile of confidence to adolescents and encourages slip into the immoral act.

Yes, I do not deny the need of highly effective emergency contraception, but to be used judiciously.

Gone are the days of moral and spiritual teachings in a respectable social set-up which maintained safe territory around each gender. Today, we stand at the junction where these personal territories have been invaded by the so-called freedom, so-called awareness and so-called independency which have undermined the morality by mis-utilisation.

An example to quote is one of my experience in the family planning OPD. A modern teenage unmarried girl walks in very coolly and casually says, ‘I had a night out a few days ago. Madam, where can I have my MTP?’ I was taken aback. It sounded as if she is asking for a cosmetic clean-up over the counter.

If unplanned pregnancy has to be prevented should we do it at the cost of morality? What path do we pave for the younger generation? Easy access to Emergency Contraception is certainly not the right step. Should we bring down our moral life by selling a product in every alternate shop and thus encourage the risk of social calamity? If prevention of pregnancy is the aim, don't we have any other safe method to practise? - Yes there is. It is nothing but single ‘NEED-BASED EDUCATION’. Teach her /couple moral attitudes, holistic approach to sex, make her aware that she is the future of family life.

Mother Teresa said to young people "Keep it pure. Keep your heart virgin. So that on the day of your marriage, you can give something beautiful to each other - the joy of pure love.”

Members of the hall, shall we all join hands in protecting this morality and vessel of purity by utilizing our resource (time, money, manpower) to illuminate every teenager over the world with this torch light of need-based education rather than demoralizing it through every alternate channel.

We Indians belong to a country where rich culture and heritage is matched by its high moral standing. The world accepts us as spiritual leaders and pillars of moral strength. And this, my friends, is not due to the availability or non-availability of contraception, emergency or otherwise. Rather it is the result of our cultural background, our upbringing and our set of values. What constitutes morality and responsible sexual behaviour is determined to a large extent by the norms of the society. Something which scandalizes the moral guardians of our society, may be considered perfectly acceptable by others. Different people at different times have different concepts of what constitutes morality, and even stretching my imagination to the limits, I cannot understand how easy access to emergency contraception will undermine morality and responsible sexual behaviour.

Morality, my dear friends, cannot be washed away like sand by the tide, or blown away like dry leaves in the wind, and, if it is so, then it is time for a little introspection. the real reasons for this apparent decline in morality in our society lie elsewhere : rapid urbanization, improper education, the desire to adopt anything Western - the list is endless. If my worthy opponent is right, then the availability of contraception as such over the last few decades and legalization of MTP should have led to a catastrophic decline in morality and produced a sexually promiscuous society, breaking all norms. Someone has rightly said ‘Worry lives a long way from rational thought'.

Saying that easy access to emergency contraception will undermine morality and responsible sexual behaviour is like saying that availability of emergency services at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences will lead to an increase in accidents due to drunken and careless driving.

What astonishes me is that we need prohibition such as limiting the access to emergency contraception in order to keep us morally upright and honest. Can we not, as responsible members of a civilized society, be responsible for our own activities, sexual or otherwise? Why do we need the proverbial 'danda' to keep us to the straight and narrow path? Here we are talking about the majority of our population and not about some shady characters. Why do we need this constant supervision and policing? And if we do, we cannot say much about our moral standing, can we?

Need is the mother of all inventions. Similarly, emergency contraception was developed in response to a need. And for it to reach those who really need it, it has to be easily accessible. A potential drawback of this easy accessibility in the form of a decline in morality and responsible sexual behaviour, cannot be allowed to outweigh the very real benefits. Think of the helpless victim of a sexual assault or a married couple using barrier or natural family planning methods which failed. I do not think that easy access to Emergency Contraception for these people will undermine morality or serve as an example of irresponsible sexual behavior.

When we think of emergency contraception, we have to think beyond just contraception. We have to think about new ways of living, about a safer alternative to abortions, of a healthier society with fewer abortion-related complications and deaths. We have to think about giving a choice to the people. In essence, we have to envisage a better and a healthier society, with empowerment of women without compromising our own moral values.


Back to Top   |   Back to Table of Contents

Introduction | Overview of the Consortium | Consensus Statements
Report & Recommendations | Future Guidelines | Training Manual
 For more information contact ec_india@hotmail.com | Credits