India’s first-ever Condomology report, released on May 27, shows that condom sales dipped by 48 percent due to increased inaccessibility during the three-month lockdown in 2020. The annual decline in sales stays at 35%.
Released by Condom Alliance, a group of India’s most prominent condom manufacturers and suppliers, the report highlights how Covid-19 limited 25 million Indian couples’ access to contraceptives. Nearly 1 million unintended pregnancies are expected in a year as a result of the lack of accessibility to contraceptives.
Condom Alliance focuses on increasing contraceptive use and reviving contraceptive markets in order to align with the Government of India’s commitment to Family Planning 2020 among other things.
“The WORLD AIDS Day report 2020 also suggests there could be an estimated 123,000 to 293,000 new HIV infections and 69,000 to 148,000 AIDS-related deaths between 2020 and 2022 globally due to the pandemic’s long-term impact,” the condomology report said.
Ravi Bhatnagar, Founding Member, Condom Alliance says that it is important to address the challenge and make condoms more accessible during the pandemic.
“Many startups such as Dunzo and Delhivery have come up for home delivery of consumable and non-consumable products. Couples can use them to order condoms,” Bhatnagar said.
He also suggests that dating applications like Tinder and Bumble can play a significant role to educate people about the use of condoms for safe and healthy sex.
Besides the Covid period, the report also throws light on prevailing myths and misconceptions such as lack of pleasure while using condoms, and the fear of being judged by the chemist as well as one’s partner etc.
“While the youth might be aware of the existence of condoms, they remain blissfully unaware of the serious repercussions of not using one,” it said.
The report further states, “70% of male adolescents between the age of 15-19 and 78% of young male between the age of 20-24 did not use a contraceptive with their last sexual partner.”
The problem can be partly attributed to the social media boom and apps that have brought casual dating and sex into mainstream society. However, overall condom usage in India remains extremely low as young people are still hesitant to use contraceptives.
Sounding an alarm bell on how India is heading towards a serious reproductive and sexual health crisis, the report says, “Despite being ranked as the nation with the 3rd highest cases of HIV by the UN and witnessing over 101,000 unintended pregnancies in 2020, condom usage remains alarmingly low.”
Though the government bodies and other institutions have been running continuous promotional campaigns to encourage the use of contraceptives, according to the report, over the past 6 years, the condom market has only witnessed a 2% Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) in volume.
The report also suggests that awareness and information about the use of condoms has been on steady growth since 2014, but this doesn’t translate into actual use and sale of the product.
“In volume terms, the market grew 11% (year on year) in 2019, but decreased 1% in 2020. The Market value during the same periods grew 17% and 5% respectively,” the report said.
Interestingly, the condom-making companies say that sale data shows that the growth in condom markets over the last year have come largely from the non-metro urban markets.
“Urban areas account for 65% of the volume and 72% of the value. While metro and rural areas don’t differ greatly in value contribution, rural areas contribute considerably more to the sales volumes,” the report said.
Quoting a recent UN Survey, the report highlights how condoms emerged as the preferred contraceptive method for 33% of the 143 million unmarried women.
“Though over the past few years, there has been a substantial increase in the use of contraceptive methods in India, there remains a lot of ground to cover. Unlike the rest of the world, condom usage remains extremely low at 5.6%,” the report said.
This is due to the cultural and societal differences between the Indian youth and the western counterparts with regards to sex and contraceptives.
“The taboo that exists in India around sex and any conversation related to it, does not exist in the more liberal western countries. Hence, the youth in those countries do not face the primary barrier - the fear of shame, with regards to use or procurement of condoms,” the report said.
It added, “Unlike the Indian youth, those in developed western countries walk through the aisles of popular supermarkets, pick up condoms, and place them before the cashier, without the fear of any judgment, glares or whispers.”
The report feels that there is a need for guidance from people they trust and through mediums that they can easily access.
“According to the Global Sex Survey: India, by Durex, 75% of 18-24 year olds agree they need more information on safety, privacy and consent,” it says.
It adds that the internet and friends serve as the key sources of education and information with 36% of them getting the information from pornography further leading to misconceptions and unrealistic expectations.
As a call of action, along with imparting sex education, it suggests many other ways like making condoms more visible, increasing access which will encourage conversations and challenge misinformation about condoms and encourage condom uptake. “Learnings from similar categories previously considered as taboo such as sanitary napkins need to be reviewed to adopt best practices,” the report said