Sex in India

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Partners, number of

2019-21

Rema Nagarajan, August 17, 2022: The Times of India

Number of sexual partners in India, 2019-21
From: Rema Nagarajan, August 17, 2022: The Times of India

Contrary to the stereotype that men have multiple sexual partners while women remain chaste, the latest data on people having multiple partners – collected in 2019-21 through the National Family Health Survey (NFHS) – shows that in urban India women are not that far behind men, with an average of 1. 5 sexual partners in their lifetime compared with 1. 7 for men.


In fact, in many states and UTs women averaged more sexual partners in their lifetime than men. These include Rajasthan, Haryana, J&K and MP in north and central India, Assam in the east and Tamil Nadu and Kerala in the south. The data also shows that rural women had on average more sexual partners over their lifetime (1. 8) compared with their urban counterparts and that same was the case among men. 


However, a much larger proportion of men (3. 6%) than of women (0. 5%) had had sexual intercourse with someone who was neither a spouse nor a person they were living with over the 12 months preceding the survey. 
The data was collected as part of an attempt to gauge the prevalence of higher-risk sexual intercourse and of condom usage during such sex, as low condom usage could put people at greater risk of HIV/AIDS. The respondents included close to 1. 1 lakh women and 1 lakh men. While it is difficult to imagine all respondents being entirely frank about their sexual liaisons, just the fact that so many, especially women, were willing tospeak about sexual partners,including sex outside marriage, is telling. While therecould be underreportingamong women, in the caseof men there could also be atouch of wishful exaggeration in some cases. The survey also covered what percentage ofwomen had sex with two ormore partners in the past12 months. A slightly largershare of rural women thanurban women and of currently marriedwomen than ofthose never married, divorced,widowed or separated said theyhad sex with twoor more partners in the 12 monthspreceding the survey. On the whole, the dataindicated that men were farmore into high-risk sex andthe proportion reporting theuse of condoms during suchhigh-risk sex was just a littlemore than the proportion ofwomen reporting the same. Hindu men had the highest mean number of sexualpartners over a lifetime (2. 2),followed by Christians and Sikhs (1. 7), while Jains hadthe lowest (1. 1). But the communities with the highestshare of men reporting having had sex with more thanone partners in the previous12 months were Buddhists/neo-Buddhists and Sikhs,while Jains and Muslims hadthe lowest proportion. Among people who hadsex in the past 12 months,women and men who nevermarried were more likelythan those currently marriedor formerly married to reporthaving sex with a person whowas neither their spouse norlived with them.

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