Sterilization as social strategy?

Sterilization as social strategy?

By choosing to be sterilized, women in southern India may be manipulating cultural norms to increase their power within their extended household. A 14-month anthropological study conducted in 1994-1995 in the village of Gopalapalli, Andhra Pradesh, gathered information from participant observation, a survey of 396 households and 44 unstructured interviews for an analysis of the reasons for female sterilization.1 Overall, 44% of currently married women aged 15-49 had been sterilized, including 32% of women aged 15-29 and 67% of those aged 30-39. While the mean number of births among all women who had been sterilized was 3.6, those aged 15-29 had an average of 2.8 births. Sterilized women who were interviewed indicated that they had decided to be sterilized for themselves and that they would not have chosen to do so simply for monetary compensation. When couples in southern India marry, they typically live with the husband’s family for 5-15 years, and the wife submits to the greater authority of her mother-in-law. Women in Gopalapalli who had been sterilized most often resided with their mother-in-law; some had challenged her authority by choosing to be sterilized against her wishes. By selecting a nonreversible contraceptive method after having had her desired number of children, a woman can indicate to her mother-in-law that she can no longer control her daughter-inlaw’s fertility. Moreover, when a woman can no longer conceive, she has symbolically moved closer to the status of mother-in-law or senior woman, as a woman who has already reproduced and is no longer able to do so is highly regarded. The investigators suggest that when these women choose to be sterilized at a relatively young age, they are manipulating cultural norms to gain prestige.

1. Saavala M, Understanding the prevalence of female sterilization in rural south India, Studies in Family Planning,1999, 30(4):288-301.

Copyright Alan Guttmacher Institute Jun 2000

Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning Company. All rights Reserved