A retrogressive step

Photo: FILE

What the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said about family planning in Istanbul on 30th May, 2016, would certainly be a matter of concern for Muslim countries which are already overpopulated and adopting strategies to control high population growth rates.

In his latest comments to promote population growth, he made the point that family planning was not for Muslim families. It was the responsibility of mothers to ensure the growth of Turkey’s population which was currently expanding at the rate of only 1.3 percent per annum. He also reiterated that “I will say it clearly…. We need to increase the number of our descendants.

“People talk about birth control, about family planning. No Muslim family can understand and accept that.” It may be mentioned that it was not the first time that Erdogan had advocated his case about increased population growth. In a speech marking the International Women’s Day this year, he said he believed that “a woman is above all else a mother.”

In 2014, he had equated birth control with treason which risked causing a whole generation to “dry up”. He also urged mothers to have four children, saying “one (child) means loneliness, two means rivalry, three means balance and four means abundance.

” Retaliating to the remarks of Erodgan, Platform to Stop Violence against Women termed his observations as a grave violation of the rights of women and by adding that “you cannot usurp our right to contraception nor our other rights with your declarations that come out of the Middle Ages. We will protect our rights.”

We would have overlooked and ignored the remarks of Turkish President if his observations were strictly for his own country and were not likely to influence the population policy in other Muslim countries.

The fact of the matter is that the concerned lobbies in some Muslim countries, including Pakistan, that are already in agreement with Erdogan’s point of view have now found another strong backer to their cause.

These lobbies could exert further pressure on their governments to roll back their family planning policies on the pretext that these policies have been discouraged in Islam, higher population growth rate is a blessing and not an invocation of scarcity or misery and this fact has been highlighted by no less a person than Erdogan who is a powerful President of a major Muslim country.

Such a philosophy, however, does not appeal to a literate person who finds overpopulation of a country as a major cause of backwardness and would like to see the population growth rate reduced to a manageable level.

It does not need to be proved that the size of a country’s population and its structure would directly impact its economy as well as its ability to provide social protections and access to healthcare, education, housing, sanitation, water, food, energy, etc.

Not only does high population growth rate put a country’s economic resources under stress, it also constrains the productivity growth rate in the economy. Family planning is also vital for gender equality and women’s empowerment. Besides, every human being would like to have the right to have access to safe, voluntary family planning programmes and make own choices about sexual and reproductive health.

All said and done, various governments in Pakistan have tried to diminish resistance against family planning and succeeded in their efforts to a great extent. Some of the active measures in place include family welfare centres, reproductive health services centres, mobile service units and regional training institutes.

With these efforts, and increasing urbanisation and improvement in literacy rate, particularly among women, population growth rate in Pakistan has now come down, albeit modestly. However, despite this falling rate, the fertility rate in the country is still the highest in South Asian region except Afghanistan and Pakistan continues to be the 6th most populous country in the world, with dependency ratio reaching unsustainable levels.

We wish that Erdogan should not have aired his views on the matter so openly and strongly but since his views are now common knowledge, these should not be construed to mean a command for other countries whose ground realities may be totally at odds when compared to Ankara’s.

Source: Business Recorder