'If the number of people using birth controls declines by 20 or 50%, the unmet demand for contraceptives could rise to 23%, which currently stands at 12%'
Use of modern contraceptives has decreased due to a lack of accessibility amid the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. Such a situation might cause the unmet demand of birth control methods to rise to 23% from the earlier 12%, said speakers on a virtual program on Tuesday.
They made the prediction to mark the release of “State of World Population 2020: Against my will, defying the practices that harm women and girls and undermine equality” by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) on Tuesday.
At least 19 harmful practices, ranging from breast ironing to virginity testing, are considered human rights violations, according to the UNFPA report, which focuses on the three most prevalent ones, female genital mutilation, child marriage and extreme bias against daughters in favour of sons.
In Bangladesh, the latter two have the most significant impact, said the report.
Replying to a question, the Health System Specialist of UNFPA Bangladesh, Dewan Md Emdad Hoque, said: “We have formed a task force to help the Bangladesh government by assisting them in developing policies and guidelines.”
Quoting data provided by the Management Information System (MIS) of the Directorate General of Family Planning, he said that the use of modern contraceptives had decreased during the Covid-19 crisis.
“If the number of people using birth controls declines by 20 or 50%, the unmet demand for contraceptives could rise to 23%, which currently stands at 12%,” he added.
He said: “When we cumulate and compare the numbers of January to May this year with the findings of last year, then we can see that the use of orals pill has decreased by 20%, condoms by 34%, injectables by 23%, IUD by 26%, implants by 25%, NSV by 64% and tubectomy by 60%.
“Now this will cause more unwanted pregnancies, will increase the number of abortions and lead to a surge in the mortality rate.”
Echoing these views, Dr Asa Torkelsson, UNFPA representative in Bangladesh, said: “According to a UNFPA estimate, due to the limited accessibility of contraception, around seven million extra babies will be born in the coming months around the world.”
“Besides, the child marriage rate has gone up in the country despite the coronavirus outbreak,” she claimed.
However, when asked for a comment regarding the findings, Kazi Rowshan Akhter, secretary in the Women and Children Affairs Ministry and also chief guest at the event, said: “We don’t have any assessment on how many of our girls are at risk of child marriage now.”
According to the report, the progress made against the aforementioned harmful practices is now at risk because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
A recent analysis revealed that if services and programs remained shut for another six months, an additional 13 million girls might be forced into marriage and two million more girls might be subjected to female genital mutilation between now and 2030.
Omar Ballan, chief of health of UNFPA Bangladesh, said that during this time of Covid-19, the accuracy of data becomes a second priority as by looking at the trends and some proxy indicators we can get an understanding of the utilization of sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) services.
‘Bangladeshis prefer baby boys to girls’
The UNFPA’s report estimates that an estimated 142 million girls have gone missing globally due to gender-biased sex selection (GBSS) in the past years.
China (50%) and India (40%) together account for about 90% of the estimated 1.2 million missing female births annually worldwide due to gender-biased (prenatal) sex selection, reports the Indian Express, citing officials from UNFPA India.
But due to having no specific data over the matter, the state of things in Bangladesh could not be determined, said UNFPA Representative in Bangladesh Dr Asa Torkelsson. Professor Mohammad Bellal Hossain of the department of population sciences of Dhaka University, who researched three districts from three divisions, said that the data currently available in the country regarding the matter was not gathered to determine GBSS.
“However, in research conducted in 2018, the findings showed that there are few incidents of sex selection in our country,” he added.
He said that there was evidence that people here preferred baby boys to girls although the data available showed otherwise.