Women’s empowerment and contraceptive use: Recent evidence from ASEAN countries
Background: A fundamental element of gender equity are women’s rights to reproductive choice. Women’s empowerment is often linked to enabling decisions around contraceptive use and reduced fertility worldwide, although limited evidence is currently available around contraceptive use and decision making in ASEAN countries. Objective: To examine the association between women’s empowerment and contraceptive use in five selected ASEAN member states. Methods: Data from the latest Demographic and Health Survey of Cambodia, Indonesia, Myanmar, The Philippines, and Timor-Leste were used. The main outcome was contraceptive use among married women (15–49 years) from these five countries. We considered four indicators of empowerment: labor force participation; disagreement with reasons for wife beating; decision-making power over household issues; and knowledge level. Results: Labor force participation was found to be significantly associated with contraceptive use in all nations. Disagreement with justification of wife beating was not significantly related to contraceptive use in any country. Decision-making power (higher) was only associated with contraceptive use in Cambodia, while higher knowledge levels were associated with contraceptive use in Cambodia, and Myanmar. Conclusion: This study suggests women’s labor force participation is an important determinant of contraceptive use. Policies designed to open the labor market and empower women through education should be implemented to enable women’s participation. Gender inequality may also be tackled by engaging women in decision-making processes at national, community and family levels.