Skip to main content

Population control? 10% Indian couples want to delay next pregnancy, but fail

Counterview Desk
Shireen Jejeebhoy, director at Aksha Centre for Equity and Wellbeing, previously senior associate at the Population Council, India, argues that the debate on the country's population was fuelled by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Independence Day address to the nation, where he drew attention to “concern” about the challenges posed by this ‘exploding’ population growth, needs to centre around the promotion of rights and education, instead of the language of explosion and the threat of coercion that this term implies.
The debate has since intensified – with Union minister Sanjeev Balyan recently saying that the Central government is working on formulating the population control law, it is the reason for “most problems we are facing in this country”, including “pollution, poverty, and lack of sanitation facilities” and that “Bharat Mata cannot bear this burden anymore".
Disputing the claim, an incisive analysis in the top NGO journal, “India Development Review”, Jejeebhoy insists India's population explosion narrative is misleading.

Text:

Is the discussion of population explosion relevant for India today? India’s population has indeed reached 1.37 billion, according to the recently released United Nations World Population Prospects, and it will continue to increase over upcoming decades, even if all Indian families choose to have just two children, because of the sheer numbers of the population entering into the reproductive ages. However, we must recognise India’s significant declines in fertility.
Our total fertility rate (TFR), the average number of children that would be born to a woman over her lifetime, is 2.2 and has reached replacement level (2.1), that is, the level of fertility at which a population exactly replaces itself from one generation to the next, in 17 of 28 states and 8 of 9 Union Territories (UT). This means that couples in most parts of India have just two children.
And in the remaining states and one Union Territory (Dadra and Nagar Haveli), the pace of the decline over the last decade has been significant in most areas, and across all social groups, and will likely reach replacement levels in the next two decades. The wanted total fertility rate in India, that is, the number of children a couple wants or wanted over the course of their married life is just 1.8, well below replacement level in all but four states and not a single UT (click here).
Rather than our patriotic duty being defined by the number of children we bear, the narrative must shift to enabling all couples to achieve the number of children they want. One in ten Indian couples wants to delay the next pregnancy but fails to practise a method of contraception, because methods of their choice are inaccessible, they don’t know about how to use these methods, or the system does not support them to overcome family objections and other obstacles.
As a result, the unmet need for family planning is widespread, especially among the young, the population most likely to shape the future course of India’s fertility. Among them, more than one in five (22 percent) wish to postpone pregnancy but don’t have the information, means or self-efficacy to do so (click here). Equally, for those who have an unintended pregnancy, the right to seek a safe abortion is effectively constrained by limited awareness of its legal status and the paucity of facilities and trained providers.
Our patriotic duty is also to ensure adherence to our enlightened laws and policies. Despite the Prevention of Child Marriage Act (PCMA), for example, more than one in four girls marry in childhood, and many without a say in when or whom they will marry. Both early marriage and the early childbearing that ensues are violations of girls’ rights, denying them the very opportunities–education, work, health–that will enable them to space their pregnancies.
Rather than the explosion narrative, India needs to rededicate itself to the promotion of respect people’s right to choose to meet their childbearing goals
Our patriotic duty is also to ensure that all children attain at least a secondary school education. Yet the NFHS-4 reports that of those aged 20-24, just 60 percent of males and 52 percent of females had completed Class 10, and ASER reports have repeatedly shown mediocre learning outcomes. We have steadfastly denied boys and girls the right to grow into adulthood fully informed about pregnancy and how to prevent unintended pregnancy.
The provision of comprehensive sexuality education remains taboo in many settings–the Population Council’s UDAYA study (Bihar and Uttar Pradesh), for example, notes that just 19 percent of girls and 8 percent of boys had ever received sex education. As a result, many enter adulthood and marriage unaware of even the basics of how pregnancy happens–many do not know that pregnancy can occur the first time a girl has sexual relations, or that a missed period may be a sign of pregnancy. Neither teachers nor health care providers are comfortable about providing this information to the young.
Rather than the explosion narrative, India needs to rededicate itself to the promotion of rights. The health system must be reoriented and providers re-trained and sensitised into offering quality services that respect people’s right to choose, and enable them to meet their childbearing goals.
The education system must be reoriented to take responsibility to ensure that the young graduate from school is equipped with information and skills necessary to prevent unwanted pregnancy and ensure good reproductive health. Finally, contextual barriers must be overcome.
Women and girls must be empowered to make decisions about their own life, including when and how many children to have. Persisting patriarchal community attitudes about male entitlement that deny women and girls the opportunity to access quality education, livelihood opportunities, protection from violence, and a say in their own life must be overcome.
Promoting reproductive rights will ensure that couples have the number of children they want, and make informed choices about meeting their reproductive goals. At the same time, it will meet India’s population stabilisation goals. All without resorting to the language of explosion and the threat of coercion that this term implies.

Comments

SS Corporation said…
This is an informative post and it is very useful and knowledgeable. therefore, I would like to thank you for the efforts you have made in writing this article.
Thanks for making blogs which are useful to couples of Hindus and sheikh religion. Hindu Sikh wedding

TRENDING

Buddhist shrines massively destroyed by Brahmanical rulers in "pre-Islamic" era: Historian DN Jha's survey

By Our Representative
Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book, "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

RSS' 25,000 Shishu Mandirs 'follow' factory school model of Christian missionaries

By Bhabani Shankar Nayak*
The executive committee of the International Union of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences (IUAES) recently decided to drop the KISS University in Odisha as the co-host of the World Anthropology Congress-2023. The decision is driven by the argument that KISS University is a factory school.

India must recognise: 4,085 km Himalayan borders are with Tibet, not China

By Tenzin Tsundue, Sandeep Pandey*
There has as been a cancerous wound around India’s Himalayan neck ever since India's humiliating defeat during the Chinese invasion of India in 1962. The recent Galwan Valley massacre has only added salt to the wound. It has come to this because, when China invaded the neighbouring country Tibet in 1950, India was in high romance with the newly-established communist regime under Mao Zedong after a bloody revolution.

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur*
Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

Time to give Covid burial, not suspend, World Bank's 'flawed' Doing Business ranking

By Maju Varghese*
On August 27, the World Bank came out with a statement suspending the Doing Business Report. The statement said that a number of irregularities have been reported regarding changes to the data in the Doing Business 2018 and Doing Business 2020 reports, published in October 2017 and 2019. The changes in the data were inconsistent with the Doing Business methodology.

Delhi riots: Cops summoning, grilling, intimidating young to give 'false' evidence

Counterview Desk
More than 440 concerned citizens have supported the statement issued by well-known bureaucrat-turned-human rights activist Harsh Mander ‘We will not be silenced’ which said that the communal riots in Delhi in February 2020 have not been caused by any conspiracy, as alleged by the Delhi Police, but by “hate speech and provocative statements made by a number of political leaders of the ruling party.”

WHO chief ignores India, cites Pak as one of 7 top examples in fight against Covid-19

By Our Representative
In a move that would cause consternation in India’s top policy makers in the Modi government, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, World Health Organization (WHO) director-general, has singled out Pakistan among seven countries that have set “examples” in investing in a healthier and safer future in order to fight the Covid-19 pandemic.

Tata Mundra: NGOs worry as US court rules World Bank can't be sued for 'damages'

By Kate Fried, Mir Jalal*
On August 24 evening, a federal court ruled that the World Bank Group cannot be sued for any damage caused by its lending, despite last year’s Supreme Court ruling in the same case that these institutions can be sued for their “commercial activity” in the United States.

Top Catholic group wants quota for Dalit Christians, foreign fund licenses revived

By Our Representative
Reiterating its long-pending demand to give "scheduled rights for Dalit Christians”, the All-India Catholic Union (AICU) has regretted that while converts to Sikhism and Buddhism from the former untouchable, or Dalit communities, have been included in the scheduled caste (SC) category, Christians from the identical communities have been “kept out.”