After a two-day conference on population policy in India last week, the delegates issued a declaration stating that a rights-based approach to population growth was more effective than a coercive approach, reports The Hindu. The conference called for the need to have effective dialogue among all the stakeholders, including members of government and civil society, in the implementation of the policy.
According to The Times of India, Shatrughan Sinha, the Union Health Minister of India, stated on Thursday “the validity and sanction of any policy or legislation has to be rooted in the gamut of human rights it seeks to protect or promote. The family welfare programme in India is voluntary and promotive in nature.” Sinha also called for the right of a woman to decide when and how many children she will have, and for women’s right to privacy and confidentiality. The declaration states that coercive measures in family planning can lead to harmful practices such as female infanticide. The declaration also makes it clear that reproductive rights cannot be seen in isolation but rather need to be linked with the right to education, the right to informed decision-making, the right to regular accessible health care, the right to counseling and medical assistance for the choice of birth control methods suitable to the couple, and the right to sexual and reproductive security, according to The Hindu.
While this conference was occurring in India, another conference on family planning was taking place in China, a country with 1.3 billion people, where it was stated that the rights of people deciding their own family size should be respected. Conference attendees also stated that family planning must be a priority and should include offering basic contraceptive services for free to child-bearing couples. According to the Xinhua General News Service, rural residents of China have been encouraged to regulate their own family planning. This self-regulated family planning effort has led to family planning awareness being deeply rooted among the local population of rural Zhenjiang Province.