As I approached United Headquarters at NYC a woman approached me and handed over a brochure. She said “could you please sign a petition asking UN Secretary General to promote small family norm especially for the poor?” That was it. She picked the wrong person.

While I was running late in my schedule for the day, for a moment I thought why not take time to help her understand some truth. She was representing ‘Having Kids’ an organization whose mission is to replace family planning model to child centered, fair start model. So I decided to have a conversation.

After listening to her rather prepared speech I asked her “what are the countries you’re asking to adopt this? Is it particular countries or just America? She said “the world in general- to all countries.” Her reasons for adoption of small family norm includes: overpopulation, depleting environment condition due to over population and that poor people are unable to support their children.

brochure handed outside UN HQ on July 11th for World Population Day
backside of the brochure


Let’s talk about The Poor

According to her recommendation poor countries must promote small family norm. So I asked her “can the rich have any number of children they desire? “ She replied “well they can take care, they are able to take care, but even the rich should consider the environment”. This prompted me to ask her if she was aware of what happens when governments impose policies like these on poor people for example countries like China, India etc. in which one child policy have violated the rights of people? She jumped on to say, “oh those governments should , not do that. I’m not talking about forced implementation.” So I said “Well you’re standing in front of UN and ask me to pressure Secretary General to promote small family norm. If UN does that and the national governments have to submit reports on their efforts, they obviously will get into target based achievement approach. This happened in India. USAID and UN agency personnel recommended that we introduce incentive based sterilization program. The result was forced sterilization.” She got very uncomfortable however she insisted on small family norm being the answer to sustainable development, environment and that we will not have space if we do not control overpopulation. So I said “more than fifty percent of the world’s countries are below replacement fertility level how could you say we’re overpopulated?” Unfortunately I didn’t make sense to her because she did not know what sub-replacement fertility level meant. There you go, a homework. Finally I asked her if you want more crowded, poor countries to adopt small family norm, why America? America has only 350 million population and three times larger than India with free fundamental education and awesome social security system. So why America? She answered,  “Well there are poor here who need to plan accordingly…”

Family Planning is a Human Right?

KC Zachariah, a senior demographer at World Bank from Kerala, recommended the observance of this day on July 11, 1987 when the world reached five billion population. The 2018 theme for celebration of World Population Day is “Family Planning is a Human Right.” As fancy as it sounds in reality the exact translation is “Poor do not have the right to determine the size of their family.”

India celebrated the day by setting up sterilization camps in poor neighborhoods. Nigeria celebrated the day by calling for urgent need to curb the population by scaling up abortion and family planning services. A professor of geography, Akin Mabogunje, called for one child policy like China to control uncontrolled birth in Nigeria. Ghana celebrated by promoting small family norm. Philippines observed the day by information dissemination, demand generation and promotion of contraceptive services. Other nations observed the day in similar fashion- spread fear, distribute contraceptives, invite people for sterilization, scale up other family planning services some of which includes abortion.

Around the world, the day was marked by considerable effort to invoke panic over the nonexistent problem of population explosion. Also included in the agenda was complaintsabout lack of funds for UNFPA and NGOs who share similar interests in carrying out ‘family planning’ services to the poor and attacking the Protecting Health in Global Health Policy of U.S.

World Population Day is nothing but a revised version of Ernakulam Experiment – the population control effort in India which was organized like a festival luring people through incentives in order to be sterilized. These people did not have choice. The women in China who were dragged by family planning police and subjected to forced abortion did not have a choice. Let us not let the same tragedy happen in Africa, South America or any others , especially  the targeted poor living in any region. To protect the environment let us sacrifice pleasures, reduce carbon emission, and check industrialization and overcrowding of cities. To blame and pass the burden on the poor and subject them to coercive population policies is unjust and gruesome.

Watch more for my response on this incident to raise awareness.