New Delhi: Only 7 percent of young women and 27 percent of young men in India who are having or have had pre-marital sex use condoms, according to a new study calling for better access to contraception for the country`s youth.
The study, "Condom Use Before Marriage and Its Correlates: Evidence from India," by the Population Council, interviewed 2,408 unmarried and married people between the ages of 15 and 24-years-old who were having or had had sex before marriage.
"Our findings highlight that pre-marital sexual experiences were unprotected for most youth," the study`s authors, K.G.Santhya, Rajib Acharya and Shireen J. Jejeebhoy of the Population Council in New Delhi, said in the report.
"Our results corroborate findings of previous studies in that young women were less likely than young men to report condom use within premarital relationships," the report added.
The report said one of the main reasons for low usage in India was down to young people`s limited access - especially in rural areas - to reproductive health services where they could gain information on contraception, on sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV/AIDS as well as access condoms.
The lack of privacy and social stigma associated with obtaining condoms were major barriers to condom use in India, said authors, adding that there was a "discomfort with approaching a provider or pharmacist for condoms".
The study was conducted in both rural and urban areas across six Indian states - Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu - which together account for 39 percent of India`s total youth population.
In most parts of conservative India, particularly in village communities, sexual health and issues related to intercourse are not discussed openly and pre-marital sex is frowned upon by elders, despite young people engaging in it.
"The findings call for repositioning the condom as a suitable method for youth," concluded the study`s authors.
"Bold and imaginatively designed communication programmes aimed at youth should be implemented to dispel misconceptions and encourage condom use."