No Sex in the TV Room

late night television replaces sex in India

by by Beatrice Igne-Bianchi

illustration by by Becca Levinson

In an effort to curb baby-making in India, the government is implementing a new form of population control: late-night television. India's Health and Family Welfare Minister, Ghulam Nabi Azad, believes that the lack of electricity in heavily populated rural areas causes couples to resort to sex as their default nighttime activity. Azad's plan calls for the country to quadruple its efforts to bring both electricity and televisions to areas that do not have them. “If there is electricity in every village, then people will watch TV till late at night and then fall asleep. They won’t get a chance to produce children,” Azad said, as reported by the UK times online. The minister is also urging India's television channels to provide high-quality shows, insisting that enticing programs will further his population control initiative.

India's population is increasing by approximately 1.6 percent every year, and currently the country's numbers account for about 17 percent of the world's inhabitants. Meanwhile, the country occupies less than three percent of the globe's land area. The Indian government is worried that a growing population will push the limits of already scarce resources, harm the environment, and further worsen the lives of impoverished citizens. According to the United Nations, 50 percent of the world's poor reside in India. Sometime in the next 50 years the nation will surpass China to become the most populous country on Earth.

For quite some time now the Indian government has pushed families to have only two children by introducing family planning and contraceptive programs. And while government numbers show a decline in birth rates overall, the initiatives are not working in rural villages and among the poor and illiterate. Many Indians are averse to government-sponsored family planning initiatives due to the legacy of a disastrous sterilization program in the mid-1970s. The plan lasted less than two years and was started by Sanjay Gandhi, son of then-prime minister Indira Gandhi, in which government officials coerced many poor, unmarried men to have vasectomies in order to meet the program's quotas. Neeraj Singh, who runs a voluntary organization to educate young married couples about family planning, told France 24 that “in a democracy, the government has no business to order its people to have fewer children,” and that only education and the citizens understanding of the population issue will garner real results. But these types of messages may be unconvincing to those who value family above all else and whose children are expected to care for elders.

Handing out televisions to discourage sex may sound like a silly plan, but not everyone thinks it is all that frivolous. A.R. Nanda, who currently runs the Population Foundation of India and helped come up with the country's population stabilization policies in the past, told Cnn that while education and access to health care are of utmost importance, sending televisions to villages is not a bad idea. “It gives a message loud and clear that we need to do something for the people which is people-friendly and which in a way will keep their minds from taking irrational decisions about producing more babies,” Nanda added. But his program may not be a quick-fix; discouraging sex through television shows does not replace formal modes of contraception. Nanda further pointed out that studies have proven that watching television at night results in less pre-bedtime coitus. In 2006, research by an Italian sexologist showed that couples who had televisions in their bedrooms had sex half as much as those without the distraction of late-night programming. Maybe I should stop inviting boys over to watch The Office.