Saturday, April 16, 2011

Do population control policies do more harm than good?

What exactly is a human right? In my opinion, it is an innate and inalienable right to make life decisions, possessed by all human beings, regardless of any distinctions that may divide us. A human right also represents a form of equality between all human beings who come from different walks of life. The decision to determine the size of one’s family is a well-defined human right. The problem associated with population control policies is that, in general, they compromise this fundamental human right of deciding one’s family size, often using draconian methods of execution to do so. The population statistics at the end of the year may reflect the success of these policies, but do mere numbers reflect the agony that people are burdened by?

Population control policies, where implemented pervasively, have been successful in reducing population growth rates and protecting countries from the hovering issue of overpopulation. For example, the one-child policy in China, which dictates that married couples are legally allowed to have only one child, helped in reducing the population growth rates from a staggering average of 2.8% in 1970 to about 0.5% in 2009! On the statistical level, this seems like a marvellous achievement. But in reality, such a steep drop in population growth could not have been achieved without cruel and inhumane methods of execution.

The principal problem associated with population control policies is that their success depends on draconianism. A staggering reduction in population growth cannot be achieved in a short period of time without infringing human rights. This is exactly what happened in China. To implement the one-child policy, forced contraception, sterilization and abortion became the norm. A chilling fact to illustrate this is that every fourth woman in China has undergone a forced abortion once in her lifetime. Aggravated by China's cultural preference for males, the one-child policy has also led to the cruel practice of female infanticide- the act of intentionally killing female infants and foetuses. Female infanticide is now creating a major problem of gender imbalance in China. A similar scenario occurred in India during the late 1970s; where the government-led population control drive resorted to widespread enforced sterilization and abortions, leading to female infanticide and gender imbalance. Now knowing the heinous nature of population control, does the massive reduction in population growth seem as marvelous?

There are certainly more humane and effective alternatives to reduce population growth. One of best and most natural alternatives is improving education in the country. By improving education, both women and men will be able to better understand the consequences of having a large family. This would encourage them to have a smaller family without force from the government. This is exactly what Iran did in the late 1900s and as a result of this effort, population growth rate reduced from 3.9% in 1985 to 1.3% in 2009. This fact is also re-iterated by the examples of many countries. For instance, Canada, having a literacy rate of 99.0%, has a small population growth rate of 0.82% while Niger, with a literacy rate of 28.7%, has a comparatively large population growth rate of 3.68%. Furthermore, the benefits of promoting education are not limited to controlling population size. Education also improves the skill levels of the population. This helps in the development of the economy, society, politics and even the quality of life.

In conclusion, I feel that population control policies have done more harm to the world than good. They infringe human rights and destroy the quality of life. Overpopulation is a serious problem and for that very reason, it should be given due importance. It should not be looked at as a short-term problem that can be fixed quickly with authoritarian measures. It is a long-term problem and it must be solved with patience and understanding, not by force. Education and other humane measures must be implemented.

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  1. what a load of bollocks, the Earth and environment will not allow you as much time as you want for billions and billions of people to crap and pollute on the planet. If we destroy the planet, what's the fking point of human right?!!

  2. Good point.

    Well, evidence seems to show that it is not the size of our population that is destroying the Earth, but rather the way we manage it. In that I mean the intensity (amount per unit person) of industrial production and also the amount of resources we destroy permanently (like forests) and the resources we waste (like plastic).

    Population does have a role to play in all of this, I'm not denying that, but its role is not so severe that we cause mass unhappiness among people.

    Like I said in the essay, there are other ways to manage a population other than forcing everybody in a draconian way to stop reproducing. Instead of implementing forced abortions or sterilizations in a crisis, couldn't we consider increasing taxes significantly? Wouldn't that have the same effect, without physically forcing people to stop reproducing?

    And as to the part of "crapping" on the planet, it is a well-known fact that human faeces and that of other creatures is actually good for the environment if dealt with in an appropriate manner. In fact, it acts like a fertilizer.

    And yes, if we happen to reach a very dire situation, in terms of the survival of the human race, then perhaps human rights would not gain as much importance as they do otherwise. Survival would then be paramount. But I don't think we have reached such a situation, at least on the developed side of the world.