The proportion of young women in India engaged in sexual relationships is higher than that of young men, a nationwide survey has indicated, but it is not because girls are turning promiscuous.
Among young people between the ages of 15 and 24, women are much more likely to have had sex than men, according to the final report of the National Family Health Survey 2006 released today.
While 28 per cent of women between 15 and 19 have had sexual intercourse, the corresponding proportion of men in this age group is only 11 per cent. Between 20 and 24 years, the figures are 76 per cent of women and 44 per cent of men.
“Early marriage among girls explains all that we’ve found,” said Kamla Gupta, professor at the Indian Institute of Population Studies, Mumbai, and coordinator of NFHS 2006. The average age of first intercourse among men is 22 years, about five years higher than the average for women. This is consistent with women marrying several years earlier than men, Gupta said.
The survey has shown that the proportion of men who have never had sex increases steadily from 13 per cent among those with no education to 45 per cent among those with 10 years of school.
Sex is also connected with income. Only 20 per cent of the poorest men reported no sex while the number was 39 per cent among the richest men.
“It’s possible that educated and rich men marry later in life,” said Gupta.
The survey has also revealed that among women between 15 and 49 years, 20 per cent had sexual intercourse before they were 15. But only 3 per cent of men in this age group had reported sex before 15.
Survey experts said some sex prior to 15 years would be pre-marital.
“There would be some pre-marital sex, but the levels of pre-marital sex among men is not enough to counter sex among married women,” said Sunita Kishor, a senior gender specialist with Macro International, a private consultancy firm that had provided technical assistance for the survey.
Across the age groups 15 to 49, the proportion of men who’ve never had sex was higher than that of women — 31 per cent men and 20 per cent women.
The survey interviewed 124,385 women and 74,369 men between the ages of 15 and 54 from 29 states.