Ever wondered when did the use of birth control start in Singapore?
After World War II, Singapore experienced a population boom – with a fertility rate of 6.56 births per woman in 1957 (today, it’s only 1.2 births per woman). Having a land area of 536 sq. km, Singapore simply did not have enough capacity for such a rapidly growing population. Hence, the government had to resort to careful population control in order to maintain sustainable economic growth. This marked the beginning of the promotion of birth control, which was in line with a series of anti-natalist policies pushed out by the government for population planning during this period.
Family planning in Singapore was initially led by Singapore Family Planning Association (SPFA), which was a voluntary organization founded in 1966 to promote healthy values on human sexuality and reproduction through education and advocacy. The SPFA organized various activities, including a family planning exhibition at Victoria Memorial Hall – where thousands of contraceptives were sold to visitors. Through various family planning campaigns, Singaporeans became more aware of family planning, and this opened up conversations which were once side-lined in the past.
Despite the positive response to the introduction of contraceptives in the 1960s, Singaporean women today still remain largely embarrassed when it comes to the topics of sexual health and contraception. This continues to be a taboo topic, and many women still fear the judgement or disapproving stares of others when trying to purchase birth control pills. This shame and stigma continues to persist in our society, despite attempts to address this stigma.
Furthermore, a study by National University Hospital, reported that women in Singapore also lack proper awareness and knowledge of the types of contraception available due to the absence of education resources regarding these topics. Obstetrician and gynecologist Christopher Ng highlighted that even though the pill is more effective in preventing pregnancy than condoms, it is underused here in Singapore. This means that many women who could benefit greatly from the pill are unable to access the pill due to these knowledge barriers.
Thankfully, with the advancement of technology, coupled with the rise of a younger generation who are passionate about educating their peers and combating the stigma surrounding these topics, things are changing. Many have taken to their social media accounts to discuss sexual health issues in a judgement-free manner, which takes the stigma out of this otherwise sensitive topic. Additionally, both private healthcare providers and public health organizations are beginning to publish information about contraceptive methods, in order to increase awareness of the various contraceptive methods and help women find what works best for them.
Although contraceptive use was introduced to Singaporeans more than half a century ago as a government-led population control initiative, sexual health and contraception remain taboo topics, even today. Fortunately, we are moving in the right direction in terms of de-stigmatizing this topic and generating greater discussion, education and awareness about taking care of one’s reproductive well-being, and the different methods available. However, there is still progress to be made, and we as a society should continue to work hard to ensure that women have both the knowledge and ability to make informed decisions regarding their sexual health and personal well-being.
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