Invisible women in Bangladesh: Stakeholders’ views on infertility services

P. Nahar

Department of Anthropology, Durham University and School of Computing Science, Newcastle University, United Kingdom.


Infertility remains a neglected issue in bangladesh’s reproductive health policy; instead, the emphasis has always been on the problem of overpopulation. as a result the dominant state ideology in bangladesh is related to controlling fertility, and the implementation of Family planning programmes has become a success story for the country (ahmed and Chowdhury, 1999; Country report, 2006). although no epidemiological study has been conducted in the national level to know the prevalence rate of infer- tility in bangladesh, a global review of infertility from the World Fertility Survey and others estimated infertility rates in South asian countries stated 4% in bangladesh. another estimate of overall primary and secondary infertility in South asia, on the basis of women at the end of their reproductive lives in the age group 45-49 years, suggests an infertility rate of approximately 15% in bangladesh (Vaessen, 1984; Farely, 1988, cited in Kumar, 2007), which is the highest among all South asian countries.

There is evidence that potential causal factors of infertility are also widely present in bangladesh. Studies showed that in the South asian region repro- ductive health problems such as sexually transmitted diseases (STD), urinary tract infections (UTi), repro- ductive tract infections (rTi), unhygienic delivery, postpartum infection and unsafe obstetric and abortion procedures are linked to sepsis and pelvic infections, which can cause infertility (Unisa, 2010; ali et al., 2007; prasad 2005; WhSEa, 2002a; Jejeebhoy, 1998). a report by WhSEa (2002b) suggested that the prevalence of STDs in bangladesh is still unknown, but following their analysis of small scale studies conducted between 1989 and 1997, bangladesh has a high prevalence of STDs. Other investigation reported that the estimated number of people with STDs in the country is around 2.3 mil- lion (SDnp-2002). a recent study of truck drivers in bangladesh found a high prevalence of the herpes simplex virus (hSV-2), at 25.8% (Gibney et al., 2002). WhSEa’s (2002b) report also suggested that in bangladesh the prevalence of rTis amongst women is 56% in rural and 60% in urban settings.