Sterilization has emerged in the last two decades as a popular and effective method of birth control. It is argued by some that it is actually the most important issue of our time considering the current debates over climate change, famine, and pollution. One simple method to reduce the strain on the earth’s resources would be to cut down the human population over the next hundred years. It is estimated that it is now the most widely used method of family planning in the world, chosen by over 100 million couples. The largest proportion of sterilized couples are found in the developing countries especially where other methods of contraception are not freely available or easily administered.
Explanations for this trend vary. One factor is likely to be that the surgical procedures for both male and female sterilization have improved, becoming quicker and safer and giving little inconvenience. In Western societies sterilization may have increased in popularity because the spouse is no longer required to give formal consent to the operation. A further motivation is concern over reported adverse effects of some other contraceptive methods such as the Pill and intrauterine devices. As a result of advice given to women over the age of 35 not to use oral contraception, sterilization has become increasingly the choice for established couples who have decided that their families are complete.
Sterilization and population control
The problem of rapidly increasing population in developing countries has led to the initiation of vigorous birth control campaigns. But these have not always been easy to implement. In a country such as India where more than three-quarters of the people still live in some 600,000 rural villages, children have always been considered as an economic asset. Each new individual is a potential new worker which means greater productivity in the fields and extra security in the parents old age. This meant that when family planning workers visited these villages, birth control methods were met with resistance on both economic and religious grounds.
During the mid-1970s, however, the Indian government initiated a sterilization campaign, at first voluntary but later enforced and in early 1977 a law was passed stating that all government workers would undergo sterilization or lose their jobs.
In most parts of the developing world now, sterilization is becoming an increasingly popular solution to the problem of contraception, and partly as a result of its introduction more than 30 of these countries have shown 20-60 per cent decreases in birth rates over the past decade.