More than 3,000 men worldwide volunteer to be sterilised

BALI • Thousands of men around the world signed up to be sterilised yesterday in what organisers dubbed a global "vasectomy-athon" to encourage men to take a bigger role in family planning and to fight resistance to the procedure.

Some 750 doctors in 25 countries were to perform the procedure on more than 3,000 volunteers to mark World Vasectomy Day, with many of the operations being provided free or at discounted rates.

"In helping to shoulder responsibility for family planning, men become heroes to their partners, to their families and to our future," said event co-founder Jonathan Stack.

The event was being held as a report from campaigners and donors warned efforts to get modern contraceptives to women in some of the world's poorest countries are not on track, with millions fewer reached than had been hoped.

At a ceremony in a temple on the Indonesian island of Bali, the headquarters for World Vasectomy Day this year, the first six men to undergo the procedure were presented to an audience before being taken outside to mobile health clinics to be sterilised. They lay on an operating table in the clinics - buses fitted out with medical equipment - while doctors performed the short procedure.

Vasectomies were also being carried out to mark the day in countries including India, the United States and Spain.

Around four in 10 pregnancies worldwide are unplanned and event organisers said that family planning is still too often left to women, who are the ones who must deal with the consequences of unintended pregnancies. In many countries, less than 1 per cent of men get vasectomies, despite the fact the procedure is safe and, in the majority of cases, has no effect on sex life, they added.

In Muslim-majority Indonesia, efforts to persuade men to get vasectomies have been hampered after the country's top Islamic clerical body several years ago declared the procedure "haram" or against Islamic law.

Other attempts to encourage vasectomies have backfired.

A district on Sumatra island announced in 2012 that it would hand out cash to civil servants who underwent the procedure - only for the move to spark anger from women, who feared that their sterilised husbands would have affairs.

Elsewhere around the world, the procedure is burdened by controversies and, in many countries, campaigners have to overcome the misguided belief that it impairs a man's virility.

Iran recently eliminated free vasectomies as it seeks to improve its birth rate, and there has even been resistance from experts in sub-Saharan Africa, who have expressed concern that widespread use of vasectomy would lead to lower usage of condoms and, so, higher HIV rates.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 14, 2015, with the headline 'More than 3,000 men worldwide volunteer to be sterilised'. Print Edition | Subscribe