Does Professed Religion Moderate the Relationship Between Women's Domestic Power and Contraceptive Use in India?

Federico R. León*
León & Bustamante Consultores, 7427 Javier Prado, Ate, Lima 3, Peru

© 2011 Federico R. León;

open-access license: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Public License (CC-BY 4.0), a copy of which is available at: This license permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

* Address correspondence to this author at León & Bustamante Consultores, 7427 Javier Prado, Ate, Lima 3, Peru; Tel: 51-1-3481262; Fax: 51-1-4218617; E-mail:


The aim of the present research was to determine whether religion moderates the relationship between women's domestic power and the use of family planning methods in India. It has been suggested that contraception is less extensively used by the Muslim minority than the Hindu population because domestic power is weaker among Muslim women. An analysis of women's responses in the 2005-06 India National Family Health Survey data set was undertaken to evaluate the power-contraception relationship within each of five religious groups. Women whose sterilization occurred two or more years before the survey were excluded and age, education, work for cash, number of children, and place of residence were statistically controlled. Women's overall domestic power explained contraceptive use among Hindus and Buddhists but not among Muslims, Christians, nor Sikhs; women's overall power was measured by the sum of power scores from four decision areas (own health, large purchases, purchases for daily needs, visits). Similar were the results concerning the influence of women's joint decision making about large household purchases, except that Sikhs presented a significant relationship. The minority status hypothesis cannot explain the observed differences and no meaningful pattern was discerned in the complex relationships observed between religion, women's power, demographic and socioeconomic variables, and contraceptive use. The key to understanding may be in a relevant ideological component, to be discovered, that differentiates Hinduism/Buddhism from Islam/Christianism.

Keywords: Women’s household decisionmaking power, contraceptive use, Muslim, Hindu.