India’s softer population programs still get it wrong

In the coming decades, India is expected to surpass China as the most populous nation on earth. Worried local Indian governments are using soft sell tactics to reduce family size, according to this article in the New York Times.

Previously charged with coercing women to sterilize themselves in some regions, government officials are using new tactics. The latest programs offer money to newly married couples to wait before having children, while other programs challenge deeply ingrained customs:

In Satara, the birthrate has fallen to about 1.9 children per family, partly because of the honeymoon package, with many women opting for sterilization after their second child. Problems persist, such as a sharp gender imbalance in Satara and many other regions of India because of a cultural bias toward having sons. With more pressure to limit families to two children, female fetuses are often aborted after a couple sees an ultrasound.

In traditional and rural societies, when pressure is placed on couples to limit their family size, girls will almost always be discarded. Females, however, are the key to curbing population. An educated girl will bear fewer children, and many people know it:

“An educated girl is your best contraception,” said Dr. Amarjit Singh, executive director of the National Population Stabilization Fund, a quasi-governmental advisory agency. He said that roughly half of India’s future excess population growth was expected to come from its six poorest states.

When a girl is educated, she often marries later and has fewer children. Unfortunately, along with this education usually comes contraception and sterilization, rather than teaching a woman about her fertility and how to work with it in the context of her cultural values and traditions. 

Zoe Romanowsky

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Zoe Romanowsky is writer, consultant, and coach. Her articles have appeared in "Catholic Digest," "Faith & Family," "National Catholic Register," "Our Sunday Visitor," "Urbanite," "Baltimore Eats," and Godspy.com. Zo

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