Contraceptive use among illiterate women in India: does proximate illiteracy matter?
Illiterate women comprise a particularly vulnerable section of the community. They lack empowerment, are unable to voice their choice with respect to contraceptive use, and also lack access to health services. However, their lack of literacy may be compensated if their partners are literate. Contraceptive use of such illiterate women (proximate literates), may be higher than that of illiterate women whose partners too are illiterates (isolate illiterates). The study uses the third wave of the Demographic Health Survey data for India (2005-2006).The 34,108 currently married illiterate women for whom data is available in the Individual file was divided into two groups, based on whether their partners were literate. Current use of modern contraceptives was compared between these two groups for socio-economic and demographic correlates. This was followed by multivariate analysis based on a logit model. Current use of modern methods was regressed on a dummy representing whether the partner was literate, along with relevant control variables. The results of the All-India (Rural+Urban) and All-India (Rural) models indicated that literacy of partners did lead to a significantly higher level of use of modern contraceptive methods. For the urban sub-sample, however, the study failed to find any significant transmission of information from the literate partner to the respondents. Disaggregate-level analysis also revealed that such transmission was restricted to only specific situations and communities. The study argued that the results may be explained by: [a] Reluctance of the male partner to share information; [b] Lack of information about family planning methods, even when there is communication; and [c] Presence of alternative channels of information reducing dependence of illiterate women on her partner. There should be an attempt to increase information of both partners through face to face interaction, rather than relying solely on public media. Simultaneously, women should be encouraged to develop contacts outside her household as this can reduce her dependence of partner for family planning related knowledge.
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