Mon, 14 Jul 2003

Contraceptive users down, birth control endangered

Sari P. Setiogi The Jakarta Post Jakarta

Contraceptive use has dropped 20 percent in Indonesia, a trend that has sparked fears of a population explosion.

Central Statistics Agency (BPS) data reveals that Jakarta headed the plunge with a 22.24 percent drop from the 71.72 percent of women of child bearing age who used contraception in 1997. West Java recorded a 21 percent decrease, 15 percent in East Java, the country's most populous province, and 10 percent in Bali, which has the country's lowest birth rate.

BPS released its latest welfare statistics in 1997, when 36 million people were registered as contraceptive users.

The secretary of the National Family Planning Coordinating Board (BKKBN), Lalu Sudarmadi, told The Jakarta Post on Saturday that the decline was caused by reasons ranging from financial concerns to male attitudes.

"Contraceptives are no longer affordable to most poor people."

Lalu said poor people were reluctant to buy prescription pills, which were free during the New Order regime that fell in 1998.

The other reason was the changing service of family planning, Lalu said. From its inception in the early 1970s until 1997, the national family planning program was aimed at encouraging the use of contraceptives. During the period, women were forced to use contraceptives.

Changes came in the twilight of the New Order, when the government recognized a woman's right to decide.

Citing the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) report, Lalu said less than 2 percent of males participated in family planning in Indonesia. The burden of contraceptive use was shouldered by women.

BKKBN says the number of reproductive couples aged between 15 and 49 years now totals 36 million, or 16.74 percent of the country's population.

It says the contraceptive prevalence rate (CPR), or the number of reproductive-aged women who are contraceptive users, is only around 57.4 percent.

The BPS statistics show that 20 percent of those who did not use contraceptives said they wanted to have children, 12 percent said they were afraid of the side effects, 11 percent cited medical reasons and 8 percent said their husbands forbade them. The remainder cited, among other things, religion.

About 46 percent of those not using contraceptives said they were not interested in the family planning program. Most already had more than four children.