In recent years, vasectomy has become a quick and inexpensive option for Venezuelans who want to avoid a large family. The procedure is increasingly sought after, even among younger men, between the ages of 18 and 23, who have never had children. The main cause of the search for this contraceptive method is the decline in purchasing power and the impoverishment of the population.
Eduardo Cárdenas works as a barber in the popular district of El Valle, in western Caracas. He has an average of 60 clients per month, of whom he charges $ 2 (R $ 11) per cut. He pays neither rent nor electricity because he “lives in the favela”. The roughly $ 120 (R $ 674) he earns at work “goes to food,” he says.
The wife helps with the family budget with what she can. She works at the Ministry of Food, where the minimum wage is equivalent to 0.50 USD (2.8 R $). The motivation to continue working is the basic basket he receives, valued at around US $ 20 (R $ 112), with which the two supplement the food for the family consisting of the 14, 11 and 3-year-old girls.
As of January 2021, the basic food basket for a family of four was worth around $ 255 (R $ 1,432), according to the Center for Documentation and Social Analysis (CENDAS).
“For two weeks, we ate well, with meat and chicken, in the next two weeks we ate eggs and vegetables,” says Cárdenas, 36, while waiting for his turn to undergo a subsidized vasectomy. by an NGO dedicated to sexual health and family control.
In the same space, around thirty men, of different ages, are waiting to undergo the same procedure. The number of young people is impressive, some almost hairless.
This is the case with KS, who requested anonymity. At 19, he decided not to have children because of the difficulty of living “in a country where he does not see a future”. As a physics student, he plans to follow the path of more than 6 million Venezuelans and leave the country. He has not yet emigrated due to lack of financial resources.
The family has not been informed of his decision. In order to pay for the preoperative examinations, which cost around 50 million bolivars (R $ 150), he lied to his father, who ended up lending him the amount, equivalent to 62.5 of the minimum wage, for his son or “the job” maintenance “.
A few seats back, musician Jermail Pérez, 20, was talking to another man in the waiting room. He told the RFI Brasil report that the operation had been decided because his professional prospects did not allow him to have children.
Half the salary in contraceptives
Per month, between two separate jobs, he earns around US $ 40 (R $ 224). The girlfriend, with whom he has been for two years, earns a little more. The joint income of the two does not reach US $ 100 (R $ 561) per month.
Sterilization will allow the couple to have a more peaceful sex life and, above all, save money. To prevent pregnancy, they used condoms and contraceptives.
Every three months, between 20 and 25 US $ (140 R $) were disbursed, subsidized by the Family Association of Civil Planning (Plafam), which facilitates access to contraceptive pills for women, after previous examinations proving the absence of pregnancy.
“Some people don’t have their own space to have sex and can’t afford a motel. The economic situation and other issues that exist in the country are affecting people mentally. It is causing a downturn. of sexual desire, “explains Jermail, who lives in a working-class neighborhood. Caracas region.
In Venezuela, the price of a box containing three condoms varies between 1.50 USD (8 R $) and 3.8 USD (21 R $). The contraceptive pack ranges from US $ 7 (R $ 39) to US $ 15 (R $ 84), depending on the drug.
“Over the past few years we’ve seen younger and younger boys wanting to have a vasectomy. Once a 16-year-old patient appeared to have had a vasectomy. This decision may have been the result of the country situation. we live in, ”urologist Douglas Ramírez said while doing one of the 30 sterilizations scheduled for the day.
The situation referred to by the doctor has been documented since 2014 by research on the living conditions of the Venezuelan (Encovi, in the acronym in Spanish).
Considered the main thermometer of the country’s society, the report, carried out jointly by the three main universities of Venezuela, showed that 79% of the population lives in extreme poverty. This means that the salary received is insufficient to cover the basic food basket.
According to researchers participating in the annual study, this impoverishment is linked to a 70% drop in GDP (gross domestic product) between 2013 and 2019. Between 2019 and 2020, poverty affected approximately 96.3% of households in the world. parents.
In a country where until recently it was common to see young families with more than three children, the decision to have a vasectomy, mostly for economic reasons, could mean a structural change in society, sociologist Betty says. Núñez, director of the NGO Communities 180.
“That male sterilization is not a taboo is something we can take as positive. But if we contrast those who seek sterilization, gravity might fall on whether they are young, including some minors, or minors. 30 years old and without children, who decide not to be parents because their projection of the economic, social and political life of the country simply shows that there is no possibility of responding to the implications of fatherhood and therefore of life family >>.
Plafam confirms that the number of vasectomies is increasing in the country. In 2019, 163 male sterilizations were performed. In 2020, despite the pandemic, 197 vasectomies were performed, an increase of 19% from the previous year.
By way of comparison, at Plafam headquarters, between January and early March of this year, around a hundred sterilizations were carried out on men of various ages. So far around 45 tubal ligation has been performed, female sterilization.
Several factors influence the choice between male and female sterilization. One of them is the cost.
The vasectomy costs around 100 million bolivars (R $ 300). Three months after the operation, a spermogram is necessary, which costs 8 million bolivars (RS 24). However, Plafam bears the costs of the procedure and patients only pay for preoperative examinations.
In order to perform a tubal ligation, or tubal ligation, the operation alone is around 150 million bolivars (R $ 453). Not to mention that this procedure is much more invasive than that of vasectomy and the postoperative more complex.
Robert and Francis, aged 31 and 36 respectively, have been together for almost six years. He had two children before meeting his current wife, who already had three. Together, they had a baby who will soon be one year old.
Although they live in François’ mother’s house, their salary is unable to feed so many mouths. After years of using alternative methods, the couple came to a conclusion: a tubal ligation would be “very expensive, the postoperative period would last about three weeks, and I would have to go to the hospital during a pandemic. Everything is very complex”. says Francis, who works as a secretary in a machine shop.
The couple then decided that the vasectomy was best for them both. And there they were in the waiting room, waiting for Robert’s turn to cut the vas deferens, which carries semen. After about 15 minutes, the clinic worker left the clinic where he “shut down the plant” as he described the procedure.
Asked what the sex life would be like after a vasectomy, Francis anticipated the answer. “We will wait for the three months suggested by the doctor after the operation. Before that, we will continue to take care of ourselves. The situation is not easy for us to have more children,” he said.