Men, Men, Men: The Importance of World Vasectomy Day

Oct 17th, 2013 | By | Category: Other Resources

Perhaps surprisingly, men often get overlooked in discussions on family planning, population growth, and empowerment.

Yet men’s understanding and cooperation is essential in improving the state of families and communities, and for also reaching a stable world population.  The most recent UN (mid-range) projection on population growth is 9.6 billion people by 2050.

The Need for Voluntary Family Planning

There are 222 million women in developing countries around the world who want access to contraceptives but lack it.  These are the women that many governments, foundations and NGOs are trying to reach.  Improving access to voluntary family planning is a great goal.  Yet for women, contraceptives can have some serious side effects – taking the Pill or using injectable contraceptives may be convenient for most but can take a toll on a woman’s body.  And certainly a tubal ligation is a very serious procedure.

However, for most men, using a condom is usually a simple act, and so is getting a vasectomy.  It might be emotionally challenging, but as a method of family planning, it is an efficient and underused procedure.   A vasectomy is a safer, cheaper procedure that causes fewer complications than tubal ligation in women.

It is also very a successful  procedure – as a method of birth control, vasectomies are 99.85% effective.

(A few years ago the New York Times ran a useful piece of an interview with the director of the Center for Male Reproductive Medicine and Microsurgery to clear up misperceptions about vasectomies titled “The Myths and Realities of a Vasectomy.”)

Highlighting Vasectomies

Hence, this October 18th is the first ever World Vasectomy Day. The day is being billed as “the largest male-oriented global family planning event ever.”  It is meant to raise awareness on the procedure and to educate people on why vasectomies are easy to do.  It is a unique day, because it is based on action and not just words.

On the inaugural World Vasectomy Day, at the Royal Institution of Australia, two doctors (Dr. Doug Stein and Dr. Nick Demediuk) will be carrying out free vasectomies in front of a live studio audience.  Yes, live and in person.  A number of men from throughout Australia have volunteered to have their vasectomies filmed in front of a studio audience and live-streamed online.  Gotta love Australians!

According to the organizers’ website, “Simultaneously, throughout Australia and the world, committed vasectomists will be performing vasectomies and sending in reports via Skype as we attempt to achieve our goal of 1,000 men in 25 countries.”

Dr. Stein, one of the doctors performing vasectomies, is the subject of an upcoming documentary.  The Vasectomist follows this American doctor on his quest to save the planet by “spreading the gospel of vasectomy”.  Dr. Stein has done more vasectomies than anyone – 30,000 – throughout the US, Asia, Africa and the Caribbean.

Fatherhood and Finite Resources

Jonathan Stack, the film’s director, recently wrote that “what started as my own desire to tell a story about fertility and fatherhood, has morphed into a global project whose goal it is to inspire men to shoulder greater responsibility for family planning as we work collectively to address the problem of a growing population on a planet with finite resources.”

Stack noted the importance of focusing on women, but he understands that men can’t be left out of the whole picture, stating “I believe that we will not achieve our goal if we do not find a way to engage men in the mission.”

Stack and Stein are doing their small part to promote the role of men in improving health, families, communities, and the planet.  While there is much work to be done to empower women and girls, especially in terms of health and education, addressing the role of men with family planning is “low-hanging fruit” that should be actively promoted.


Suzanne York is a senior writer with the Institute for Population Studies.

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