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Breed or else! Iran’s ultimatum to women


by Sonia Sevilla

The leaders of Iran want to boost the country’s population. But new laws being proposed would severely restrict contraception, ban voluntary sterilization and discriminate against childless women.

When Iran was trying to do the opposite – reduce population growth in the 1990s – it did so in a way that was compliant with human rights and a model for the world.

In stark contrast to China’s one-child policy, the Iranian government campaign launched in 1989 was based on giving women control over their own fertility and coincided with a dramatic increase in the educational level of younger women. It worked – Iran achieved the fastest fertility rate decline in the world, from 6.6 children per woman in 1970 to 1.9 in 2010.

In an issue of New Internationalist five years ago ([Jan/Feb 2010] Too Many of us? The population panic) Iranian family planning expert Farzaneh Roudi said of the 1990s campaign: ‘People outside Iran imagine the family planning programme must have been coercive, but it wasn’t. There was widespread public education about family planning, everyone was talking about it.’

Speaking of the new laws now being proposed, John Seager, president of the NGO Population Connection commented: ‘These proposals are an outrageous violation of the human rights and wellbeing of Iran’s citizens. Access to modern contraceptives and family planning services should not depend on the political objectives of governments. Being able to choose when, whether, and with whom to have children is a basic right.’


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