A New Report Says There’s A Major Link Between Gender Equality & Birth Control Use

by Mika Doyle
Josep Suria/Shutterstock

A major report released in the journal Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health has found that gender equality is linked to higher contraceptive use in teens in 33 countries. Previously, gender equality has been linked to higher contraceptive use in adults, says a report on the study published by the Guttmacher Institute, but very few studies have explored that link in teens. That’s such a huge deal because it shows that societal acceptance of gender equality can make pregnancy prevention everyone’s responsibility — not just the responsibility of women. And that shift in thinking can be life-saving for so many people.

Researchers analyzed nationally representative data from 33 countries across Europe, as well as Canada and Israel, that participated in the 2013-2014 Health Behaviour [sic] in School-Aged Children study, as well as country-level measures of gender equality using the 2014 Global Gender Gap Index, according to the report. After assessing the association between gender equality and contraceptive use — condom only, pill only, and dual methods — the researchers found that teens ages 14 to 16 living in countries that had higher levels of gender equality were more likely to use contraceptives the last time they had sex. And the rate of contraceptive use was pretty even: 4,071 females reported contraceptive use, and 4,110 males reported contraceptive use.

What’s more, the higher the teen’s country scored in gender equality, the more likely the teen was to report using contraceptives, says the researchers. “Increasing gender equality was positively associated with contraceptive use among both males and females,” the researchers said in the report. "For every 0.1-point increase on the equality scale, the likelihood of condom use at last intercourse rose, as did the likelihood of pill use and dual method use.”

The United States wasn’t included in this report, so there’s no gender equality rating to use for comparison. But when you look at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s most recent report on contraceptive use in the United States, it doesn’t even address male use of contraceptives; it only provides statistics on how women are using contraceptives. You don’t really need a gender equality rating to tell you that when men aren’t even included in the statistics, it’s clear women are expected to bear the responsibility of contraceptive use in the United States — and that’s a problem.

The reality is that family planning should be everyone’s responsibility. That’s why the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics (FIGO) says family planning is a basic human right; it reduces poverty and helps people achieve sustainable lives. And access to contraceptives and the right to make decisions about how to use those contraceptives — including who uses them to prevent pregnancy — is an integral part of the family-planning process, says FIGO.

“Contraception saves lives,” Professor C.N. Purundare, FIGO President, said on the FIGO website. “Reduction in maternal mortality can be achieved through family planning, enabling the spacing and prevention of unwanted pregnancies. It is a human right.”

When everyone takes responsibility for family planning, regardless of gender, pregnancy prevention is no longer the responsibility of a single group. And that can truly be life-saving. These 33 countries have definitely got the right idea when it comes to teaching their kids about how not-awkward and super sexy it is to talk to each other about contraceptive use.