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Is Pakistan ready for a male contraceptive pill?

Published Jul 11, 2012 03:33pm


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Gendarussa – a male contraceptive pill being produced in Indonesia. – Photo courtesy author
Gendarussa – a male contraceptive pill being produced in Indonesia. – Photo courtesy author

Indonesia, the world’s “poster child” for family planning is geared up for another breakthrough.

At the Airlangga Universitas in Surabaya, Indonesia, the world’s first non-hormonal contraceptive pill for males has entered its third phase of clinical trials and will be ready to reach the shelves soon. While the research for creating the pill was launched under the leadership of Professor Bambang Prijogo in 1987 and funded by BkkbN – Indonesia’s family planning body, small-scale production has been launched by a herbal medicine company called Naturoz.

Justicia Gendarussa, an innocent-looking shrub next door, is what these pills are made of. It is mostly found in Papua, Indonesia. The pill, according to Bambang, “disturbs the enzyme system of spermatozoa” and affects its “function, capacity, migration, binding and inhibition.” Simply put, the shrub weakens the ability of the sperm to penetrate an ovum during intercourse.

Once this pill is available world over, would it be a good idea to introduce it in Pakistan, the world’s fifth most populous nation? This World Population Day, Pakistan’s current population clock has ticked past 180121027 (as of July 10, 2012), according to the Population Census Organization of the Government of Pakistan. The Pakistan Demographic and Health Survey (PDHS) 2007 shows that only 30 per cent of married women use any form of contraception.  It would be safe to assume that the percentage of males using contraceptives would be much lower, if not entirely negligible.

Barring condoms and natural methods like Coitus Interruptus (withdrawal method), men mostly are out of the contraceptive game, and even these two methods are used with a lot of reluctance. Vasectomy, a permanent contraceptive technique, is a no-no for many reasons: it is more invasive, it is not allowed by most religions and it takes away the feeling of being ‘in control’ for men. As for female contraceptives, more mythical and less real side-effects make it a less than ideal choice for people. In a country like Pakistan where the FP decisions are still made by the man of the house and the mother-in-law, particularly in the under-privileged and rural setup where FP is most needed, the eventual result is more children than the family can handle and in turn, more children than Pakistan can possibly handle.

In such a scenario, if the Gendarussa pill were to be introduced in Pakistan, it could be a break through. Free of harmful side-effects, it can be the solution to many problems, but men have their reservations. An unnamed interviewee admitted his reluctance to use the pill despite his wife’s openness to the idea. “I have two reservations.  Firstly, what if it causes impotency or effects my sexual performance? Even if the label says there are no side effects, this will always be at the back of my mind. Secondly, is it really a fool-proof contraceptive method?”

Conspiracy theories and myths regarding contraceptives being introduced as ploys to reduce male virility and fertility in general are common. Judging from the reaction polio vaccination campaigns and iodized salt met in Pakistan, it would not be an easy option for males to accept. It was interesting to note that men interviewed were very scared of the possible side effects, especially the possible effects on sexual performance or fertility in the long run. However, the pill’s trials indicate quite the opposite. Turns out that Ganderussa does affect sexual performance, by acting as an ‘enhancer.’ The effect is also temporary and reversible once the pill is discontinued.

“A major concern would be that my fertility is not permanently hampered. If there are no side-effects, I have no issues using it, especially when I compare it to using the condom, which I do not prefer,” says one interviewee, who believes that the couple are a team who should decide mutually and work in collaboration. Why, then, are men not comfortable when presented with this option. “Mostly, it is the ego of us males that gets in the way of using contraception. But men should realise that a woman bears the child for nine months, feeds and takes care of the children – his children! If she can do that, why can’t he take a simple pill?”

Women, when asked, were excited about the idea. Somewhere, they felt that now the ball could be in the men’s court, and that the women would not have to be singly responsible for using contraceptives. Yet, they also expressed their apprehensions that their men could not be trusted to take the pill regularly. “If he skips it or lies about taking it, it is me who is going to end up pregnant yet again,” says an unnamed mother of four.

The author is a freelance journalist.


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Comments (29) Closed

truth Jul 12, 2012 02:07am
Why people always think about conspiracies against Muslims. Muslims are responsible for their own condition.
iykhan125 Jul 11, 2012 11:21pm
Guys, the article is about a drug that could improve the quality of our lives.. Let us talk about the affects of this drug, how we could improve our relationships with our spouses with the usage of this drug. The research on this drug, according to the article, has proved to be safe, effective and an enhancer for men. If anything is safe, improves or even maintains a couples relationship and their lives, NO religion, or government should have any problem with it.... A very well written and informing article. In my opinion, it would still be used all over the world. If we talk about Pakistan, as long as both partners are on the same page, it would be used and frankly that would be a HUGE step towards a healthy relationship and a happy family. Non believers would follow gradually.....
Cyrus Howell Jul 11, 2012 10:57pm
Pakistanis want to stay fruitful and multiply.
rose Moses Jul 14, 2012 03:49pm
Another good one Farah
riaz murtaza Jul 12, 2012 12:08am
I still believe that the female contraceptive is a better way. Pakistan's population is increasing at a very dangerous level. Family planning in each and every home has become necessary.
Zalmay Jul 12, 2012 12:33am
Just do what people used to do in old times when there were no contraceptives. Coitus Interruptus.
Zeeshan Jul 12, 2012 04:44am
Contraception or not. It wont stop men because the thing that attracts the men the most in this context are women. After that it is children and then horses and lands and gold and silver. This will remain the list of priorities until this world ends.
N..K Jul 12, 2012 12:05pm
Europe is facing this prob.but the point is not over population its about now managing the population that we have .... we have good enough resources to feed our-self we just need the will ... with this youth if given ample opportunities then surely we can do great !!!
khan Jul 12, 2012 02:03am
"Mardana Kamzoori" is the word written almost on every wall all over the country. So why pills? more paan and you wouldn't need any pills.
Prakash Jul 12, 2012 04:27am
Yes, we are ready for a controlled growth. Population controlled pakistan would prosper in near future
TeeKay Jul 11, 2012 08:40pm
Condoms is the way to go. Pills are too much of a trouble. I have a friend who has to wake up every 5 am in the morning to take her pills. Its a bit of a hassle. What if she doesn't set her alarm right? As a man, I wouldn't do it. Its a risky responsibility. Although I'm a liberal, I wouldn't suggest sex before marriage in Pakistan with all the social pressures that will pop your way if you impregnated a girl.
Siraj Jul 12, 2012 11:53am
Paan, the natural contraceptive? who would want to come near a person with blood like fluid spewing out of their mouths..
Khurram Jul 11, 2012 06:58pm
Pakistan can never be ready for such remedies. Pakistan needs a system of accountability where there are consumer rights and laws which are implemented as we have seen time and again that if anything goes wrong (in this case such as side effects, use of low quality material etc.) the consumer does not get compensated. It is a big No No for Pakistan.
Waqar Saleem Jul 11, 2012 06:49pm
Why do my comments consistently disappear in the moderation phase? Are there any house rules other than the moderator's mood? Please share them so that they may be observed.
Tariq Jul 11, 2012 06:37pm
The a relief could be on the horizon for the married couples to indulge in their favourite past time without the danger of adding to the burgeoning population op Pakistan! Thank you Indonesia.
baakhlaq Jul 11, 2012 06:19pm
It would be a wonder drug but men will have the fear that the drug may have the permanent side effects and women would remain under fear whether the male has used the medicine or not so I think only one gender should take the responsibility of contraceptives "too many cooks spoil the broth"In our context a few children will born because of male's mistake and a few because of female's.
Jamshed Khan Jul 11, 2012 06:05pm
An excellent idea but should and can women trust men for contraception??? In response to the comment by Hasanalirana above, a proper Aalim will tell you that Islam does not prohibit contraception.
Wisdom Jul 11, 2012 06:05pm
Slower population growth such that the dependent population outgrows the productive population is an idea that is on the way out. Europe's growth stagnation is ample proof. All the countries where young populations are increasing and are managed properly have shown the most remarkable growth. But some stubborn minds will still insist on FP to the extent that it stifles overall growth of a nation because the old-age population (dependants) become far in number as compared to the younger earning generation.
Naveen Jul 11, 2012 05:57pm
there is a bigger issue to that of birth control ....nowadays it's about STD identification & eradication and this is shared globally. And contraceptive pills for either men or women will not resolve that issue. The solution can only be achieved through education and moral/social/religious responsibility.
Naveen Jul 11, 2012 05:50pm
there is a bigger issue to that of birth control ....nowadays it's about STD identification & eradication and this is shared globally. And contraceptive pills for either men or women will not resolve that issue. The solution can only be achieved through education and moral/social/religious responsibility. We can't pop a pill to solve this problem.
Asad Jul 12, 2012 03:56pm
Apparently the moderator is going through mood swings. Perhaps it's that part of the month for the moderator, huh?
Asad Shah Jul 12, 2012 03:46pm
Half of the liberals have no clue what they are talking about, and half the morons don't give a damn what the liberals think is right. Family planning has had devastating effects in several countries and they cannot seem to reverse the process of population decline. Use google and educate yourself a bit. P.S: @Liberals,I pay more than a six figure tax every month to the government, can I kindly have more than 2 kids please? P.S: the moderator can now please delete this comment since the only rule that applies to Dawn's comments section is the moderator-has-mood-swings rule!
Dr,Mehsan Jul 12, 2012 03:21pm
I agree with U. Besides, having a productive n useful population is Much Better than having a billion Poor, hungry, uneducated, unproductive population; which suffers from High infant and maternal mortality rates and life expectancy of 62 or 65. Eradication hunger ,powerty, corruption and bribery , improving health status, better education and finally improving financial conditions of Pakistan should be our priority. Everyone Please, do not concentrate on others' conspiring about us and stop blaming others for our weaknesses.
Andy Jul 12, 2012 02:59pm
Exactly !! I am deeply affected by this as well. I hope Dawn also implements an email notification after the comment goes live.
Hasanalirana Jul 11, 2012 04:46pm
''Ah! Another conspiracy against the magnificent population growth rate of 1.5 Billion Muslims'' . says the self confessed, righteous and pious leader while standing on the shaky pedestal of so called higher moral, ethical, cultural and religious values.
tahirrana Jul 12, 2012 07:17am
and where to find the proper Aalim?
abro Jul 12, 2012 07:54am
It's not reliable!!!!!!
m. akhtar Jul 14, 2012 09:53pm
The control of population is very important for the Pakistan and many other countries. There should be a law to limit the production of children for not more than two or three. After that government should takes over. That may not be possible, because the children are the security of older parents. Who will take care of them?.
NASAH (USA) Jul 18, 2012 03:15pm
If coitus interrupt-us is not your cup of tea -- coitus analyticus is always available -- a bane of teenage contraception.