Population populism: UP draft population bill fails tests of necessity, intrusiveness

Source: Down To Earth (Article 1, Article 2)

Relevance: It is a critical analysis of the UP’s new proposed population policy.

Synopsis:

UP’s new population policy and draft law try to use punishment as a tool to control fertility levels. However, evidence shows that focusing on the education and empowerment of women can yield better results.

Read More: Family mis-planning
Challenges with the Draft:
  • The UP Law Commission drafted the bill without being asked either by the state government or constitutional courts.
  • Against women rights: UP has already undermined their agency by denying them the right to choose their spouses through love jihad laws, and this bill now tries to control even their reproductive choices. Further, the reference in Section 8 of the bill to ‘whoever procreates’ clearly applies only to women.
  • Against international commitment: The Human Rights Committee of the United Nations has categorically mandated that state parties to ICCPR cannot adopt policies that are compulsory, coercive or discriminatory.
    • Being a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), India has to abide by the international norms on population control.
  • A five-state study by a former senior Indian Administrative Service officer showed that coercive policies are ineffective in reducing fertility. The study, instead, revealed the following results.
    • There was a rise in sex-selective and unsafe abortions in states that adopted the two-child policy;
    • Men divorced their wives to run for local body elections and families gave up children for adoption to avoid disqualification.
  • Against well known internal and external examples to reduce population. Such as,
    • Sri Lanka brought down its fertility rate via greater investments in girl-child education and a robust family planning programme.
    • Bangladesh did so by expanding the basket of contraceptive choices available to men and women.
    • In Kerala, the state was able to bring total fertility rate (TFR) down to 1.6 by investing in girl-child education, employment opportunities, women’s empowerment and a strong healthcare system.
Read More: Population control measures in India – Explained, pointwise

So, the focus should be on increasing socio-economic benefits and addressing the unmet need for contraception. This will contribute towards population stabilisation.

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