The population bomb in Pakistan

It made me so upset this morning to read this AFP report on three men who have fathered 96 children in Pakistan. The utter disregard for their wives’ well-being, the toxic masculinity in these men’s bragging, and the cavalier confidence that someone else — God, the government — would provide for their battalion of children made me wonder if there is any hope for our fragile nation at all.

We already grapple with a shortage of resources, malnutrition leading to stunting, and educating this fast-growing country’s children. Why have we not been able to solve the problem of population control, which is not against the religion of this country’s majority? What other excuse can there be for such an abandoning of personal responsibility, social responsibility, and governmental responsibility?

We always like to say that we humans are superior to animals. I can’t see what’s superior about men fathering as many children as they can manage out of their wives’ worn-out bodies, then discarding them for younger, fresher models. It very much reminds me of the paragraph in Paulina Porzikova’s NYT essay on feminism:

“In Czechoslovakia, women came home from a long day of work to cook, clean and serve their husbands. In return, those women were cajoled, ignored and occasionally abused, much like domestic animals. But they were mentally unstable domestic animals, like milk cows that could go berserk you if you didn’t know exactly how to handle them.”

This is exactly how the majority of men treat women in Pakistan. And then they expect to be able to use their wives as receptacles and incubators because it’s just the way things are meant to be.

The answer lies in the AFP article, where Aisha Sarwari says: “Access to birth control for women can be a game changer… Ultimately the impact is that there are more resources to go around … Empowered women have fewer children, and this creates a mindset that leads to prosperity within families that is likely to be emulated across communities.”

But without educating women about birth control, how can this change any games, especially the oldest one in the world? Says Zeba A. Sathar (country director for UN Population Control) “The need is for clear information about the methods available, how they work, their possible side effects and where to get them. That is missing,”

Mention sex education, or health and reproductive education as we call it here in Pakistan, and conservatives scream as if you’ve proposed automatic castration at birth. Conservatives will tell anyone (whether they want to hear it or not) that “sex education” means telling children how to have sex. They brush aside educating girls and young women about how to take care of their bodies through sex and pregnancy.

They claim to do this for many reasons: it’s un-Islamic or vulgar to talk about these topics, or they want to protect children from “gandi baatey” (dirty talk). But the truth iis is based on sexism – they fear that their unchecked rights to sexual pleasure, and the opportunity to prove their virility through siring sons will be unduly affected by health concerns for women.

Education about sex, reproduction, pregnancy, and maternal health needs to start when girls hit puberty because that’s when they start getting married in Pakistan. It also needs to start at boys at the same age because it is important for them to be as well-educated as their sisters in human biology. But it clearly needs to continue to both women and men, because there have been such gaps in our knowledge for so many years. It will take several generations to catch up at this rate.

Now, if only the men of Pakistan would get out of the way.

 

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3 thoughts on “The population bomb in Pakistan

  1. Muhammad Iqbal says:

    Population explosion in Pakistan is going unchecked .Most of the NGOs are working on Family planning but ironically none of them is having any person with vision how to create awareness among the masses .I have worked back in 1997 with an NGO as their trainer .On the basis of my rich experience related to contraceptive measures and awareness,I wanted to impart the training according to the basic needs of the society but the bosses in the NGO wanted to implement a strategy through which they could easily mint money….

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  2. Vasanth Pai says:

    It is the same in India too. A simple thing like menstrual hygiene does nto receive the attention it should. I had put up a post on this on World Menstrual Hygiene day ( 28th May) and the response was poor.. Parents should start counselling their children about the facts of life when they are at an age when it can be explained to them in a language they can understand, not bees and flowers or storks bringing babies. There is the sad story of the origin of the NGO “Samaritans” in Ireland, started by Father Chad Varah. Father Varah’s vision began in 1935, when, as a 23-year-old deacon, he brooded bitterly after the first burial service he conducted for a girl, who, by varying accounts, was 13 or 14. She had killed herself because she wrongly feared that the onset of menstruation meant she had a venereal disease. She dared not talk to her parents and committed suicide instead. Things have changed today in the West but not in India. Here is my post in facebook

    lhttps://www.facebook.com/konchadi.pai/posts/10154556927935205

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    1. Muhammad Iqbal says:

      The same is the phenomenon in Pakistan as well.The children in the nursery classes are taught about parts of the body but most significant parts of the body are ignored .The same is the case about the changes which are bound to take place both in the male and female.Majority of the girls are ignorant about the menstruation and the hygiene.There are still a lot many myths about menstruation..The girls are forbidden to take bath bath during this period which results in lot many genito urinary tract infections.Awareness programmes be started in schools for sex education..

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