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A doctor’s ‘jihad’ to popularize birth control among Assam’s Muslims

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By NewsGram staff writer

Talks about birth control were once a taboo for Muslims, particularly the uneducated Muslims living in remote areas of Assam. This has changed largely due to Ilias Ali, a professor of surgery at the Gauhati Medical College and Hospital, who had launched a kind of ‘jihad’ (holy war) against the misconceptions about birth control and has thus far carried out a staggering 48,000 vasectomies on Muslim males.

Now, Muslim males with two or more children are voluntarily coming out in large numbers to get sterilized and help control the population.

“Muslims, particularly the uneducated ones, are opposed to birth control. It is not only in Assam but in many other parts of India as well. They believe children are the blessings of Allah and all births take place as per his wish. They consider it a sin to go against the wishes of Allah,” Ali, who conducted his first No Scalpel Vasectomy (NSV) also known as ‘keyhole vasectomy’ in Assam in 2008, told IANS.

NSV is one of the most popular techniques to conduct vasectomy through a single puncture in the scrotum which requires no suturing or stitches. It causes less pain and fewer post operative complications.

Ali went to China for being trained in NSV by Li Shunqiang, who had invented the procedure in the mid-1970s. However, it was introduced in India only in the mid-1990s.

“I have realized that there is ignorance among the people, particularly among the uneducated Muslims over this. The Holy Quran has been misinterpreted by some and the people have taken it to be true due to their being illiterate,” he said while explaining that, in fact, Islam is perhaps the only religion which talks of family limitation methods.

“There is a mention about ‘azol’ in the Holy Book, which means coitus interruptus (ejaculation outside vagina). During the time of Prophet, some of his companions tried to reduce the chances of conception and pregnancy by practising azol. The Prophet was aware of this,” Ali said adding that this method became widespread during the Prophet’s lifetime.

“I have been using this and other references from the Holy Book to explain to the people that birth control is not against Islam,” he said.

One of Assam’s best-known surgeons, Ali further added that he often refers to Chapter 46, Verse 15 of the Quran which says “Wa hamluhu wa fisaluhu salasuna sahran”, which means there should be a gap of 30 months between a child’s birth and his or her weaning.

“Since lactation is understood to act as a natural contraceptive for a mother, this implies that there should be a gap of two-and-a-half years between two children,” said Ali.

“It is incumbent upon fellow Muslims to arrest the spiralling population and preserve the environment. The population growth rate among the Muslims, particularly among the non-indigenous Muslims living in the riverine sandbars, is comparatively higher than other communities in Assam. The shrinking land availability due to the population growth is a matter of concern,” he said, adding that his efforts have shown results over the years.

Ali said that the total fertility rate (TFR) among the Muslims in Dhubri district, where the number of non-Indigenous Muslims is greater, have come down over the years – from 2.7 percent before 2007 to 2.6 percent at present.

“We believe that the population growth will stabilize when the TFR comes down to 2.1 percent. Our target is to achieve this by 2019,” he added.

For Ali, this success has come after much pain. He had to risk his life for trying to popularize sterilization among the Muslims. In 2009, an Islamic organization issued fatwa against Ali and his programmes were boycotted for being un-Islamic.

“I had received several threats in those days. My meetings and NSV camps were boycotted and some organization issued fatwa against me. My family was threatened if I continue my mission. But I do not blame anyone for this. I am happy that I have been able to break the jinx and popularize NSV,” he said.

“Of late, the marginalized sections of the Muslim community have realized that a well planned family is the key to prosperity and progress. That is why they have extended their support to our programme,” he added.

Hasan Ali, a resident of Dhubri district who underwent NSV at a camp organized by Ali in 2009 said, “We have two children. I was first hesitant to accept what doctor sahib was trying to convince us in our village. However, he mentioned about the Holy Quran and explained to us that Prophet Mohammed was not averse to family planning. I decided to undergo NSV and now I encourage my friends to also do so.”

Educationist and associate professor of North Eastern Hill University (NEHU) Dwijen Sarma termed Ali’s efforts as path breaking. “I had the opportunity of meeting Dr Ilias Ali during a programme and he explained how he works among the rural uneducated Muslims encouraging them for birth control,” said Sarma.

“It was a herculean task to convince Muslims in remote areas to go for birth control. However, Dr. Ali has succeeded in his mission and I am sure he will achieve his target of bringing down the TFR to 2.1 percent,” he added.

(With inputs from IANS)

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New male birth control pill found safe and effective

All participants passed safety tests, including markers of liver and kidney function, the study said

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Opioids
Male contraceptives proved safe and effective.
  • Researchers have found oral contraceptive for males
  • The experiment has been successful
  • The pills are effective and successful in their operation

In a major step forward in the development of a once-daily “male pill”, researchers have found an experimental oral contraceptive to be safe in men with hormone responses consistent with effective contraception.

The findings presented at the Endocrine Society’s annual meeting in Chicago showed that the new pill — called dimethandrolone undecanoate, or DMAU — appears to be safe when used daily for a month.

The pills are effective with no harmful effects. Wikimedia commons

Like the pill for women, DMAU combines activity of an androgen (male hormone) like testosterone, and a progestin, and is taken once a day, said the study’s senior investigator, Stephanie Page, Professor of Medicine at the University of Washington in Seattle.

“Many men say they would prefer a daily pill as a reversible contraceptive, rather than long-acting injections or topical gels, which are also in development,” Page pointed out.

Progress toward a male birth control pill has been stymied because, according to Page, available oral forms of testosterone may cause liver inflammation, and they clear the body too quickly for once-daily dosing, thus requiring two doses a day.

Also Read: Injectable Male Contraceptive likely to Lower Unwanted Pregnancies

However, DMAU contains undecanoate, a long-chain fatty acid, which Page said slows this clearance. The study included 100 healthy men between ages 18 and 50 years. The investigators tested three different doses of DMAU — 100, 200, and 400 milligrams, or mg.

A total of 83 men completed the study, including giving blood samples for hormone and cholesterol testing on the first and last day of the study.

At the highest dose of DMAU tested, 400 mg, participants showed “marked suppression” of levels of their testosterone and two hormones required for sperm production. The low levels, Page said, were consistent with effective male contraception shown in longer-term studies.

These pills are revolutionary in the world of contraceptives.

“Despite having low levels of circulating testosterone, very few subjects reported symptoms consistent with testosterone deficiency or excess,” Page said.

All groups taking DMAU did have weight gain and decreases in HDL (high-density lipoprotein, or “good”) cholesterol, both of which Page said were mild.

All participants passed safety tests, including markers of liver and kidney function, the study said. “These promising results are unprecedented in the development of a prototype male pill,” Page said. “Longer term studies are currently underway to confirm that DMAU taken every day blocks sperm production,” she added. IANS