More married couples in Delhi, Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh use condoms, while those in southern states of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu prefer other methods like sterilization to prevent pregnancy.
But there's no reason for couples in the north to brag. While they practice safe sex as they've learnt from ad campaigns, experts claim single sex partners down south are, perhaps, being more intelligent.
Family welfare statistics of 2009, released by the ministry of health and family welfare, puts Andhra at the bottom of the list on condom use among married couples, with only 0.5% using them. Karnataka comes next with 1.7%, followed by Tamil Nadu, with 2.3% condom users.
Delhi tops the charts, with a whopping 22.9% of couples using condoms—more than four times the national average of 5.2%. Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh follow behind, with 15.5%, 11.8% and 8.6% of couples using them.
In south, the most preferred method of contraception is female sterilization followed by IUD (intrauterine device). Although these states fare poorly in terms of condom use, they rank the highest when it comes to female sterilization and use of IUDs. In fact, AP tops the list, with almost 63% women undergoing sterilization, followed by Karnataka (57.4%) and Tamil Nadu (55%). This could also mean that men make the contraception decision, often asking women to undergo sterilization.
Says VM Katoch, director general of Indian Council of Medical Research and secretary, department of health research, "This is an interesting trend and as more people in south use permanent sterilisation methods, it shows they are making an intelligent decision when it comes to having children. That said, condoms could help prevent reproductive tract infections even in monogamous couples."
Other experts believe women in southern states are probably more aware of alternatives. "I think birth control pills and IUDs are better methods of contraception than condoms. Since women in these states know more about them, they want to try them out," says Dr Priya Selvaraj, a Chennai-based obstetrician and gynaecologist.
The failure rate of condoms is cited as one of the reasons for its low use. "Condoms could fail. Also the couple need to use condoms every time they have intercourse, unlike an IUD where the device can be inserted and forgotten for five years. Condoms are good when trying to prevent HIV and STD, but for monogamous couples, condom may not be the best option," says Dr RV Thenmozhi, gynaecologist at Fortis Malar, Chennai.