The politics of family planning
Thursday 13 September 2012
In her Time Magazine article Lisa Beyer wrote, “In patriarchal societies the honour of a man lies between the legs of a woman.”
In the societies where women are the measure of men’s honour, family planning is a taboo. On paper, family planning can provide a vehicle for women’s empowerment but in reality it is severely impeded by numerous challenges.
One of the biggest challenges it faces today in some countries is socio-cultural patterns such as patriarchy.
It doesn’t matter how much media campaigns stress the need for family planning.
It doesn’t matter how much donor countries urge developing countries to highlight the importance of family planning.
Unless the cultural barriers faced by women are understood, this route towards empowerment will be less impactful.
In societies where men are the gate-keepers, women’s access to information is limited. Being raised in a patriarchal society myself, I still remember even uttering the words ‘family planning’ used to raise eyebrows.
Being a male, writing an article about family planning and commenting upon the patriarchal prejudices of a society towards women is sure to earn me some harsh criticism from most sections of my society. But I guess there has to be a time to challenge the taboos.
Family planning is not about contraception only, it’s about challenging certain notions, which are there from centuries before.
To make family planning a success, you cannot leave the men behind. If men aren’t willing to change their mindset, there’s no way the growing population of the world could be controlled.
Societies where women are just thought to be means to certain ends, their personal potential and choices are diminished.
Even if there are contraceptive methods available along with the services, the final choice will eventually lie with the men.
Give girls power
Family planning can work in situations where women are given options, but in male-dominated societies, making the option real is the hardest and most vital step.
This is where the politics of family planning is required to be understood in order to make it more pragmatic and more workable in the long term.
Girl power saves lives, but giving them meaningful power is the vital key. Hosting a family planning summit in London was just one of the few steps; there’s still a long way to go.
Not only do we need more summits but also the approaches to make family planning work in numerous societies.
Whenever I talk about women’s empowerment among my friends, they make me look like an alien. But I remember how my father challenged all the prejudices of the society and let my sister make the choices of life herself.
And today my sister is once again challenging those prejudices for her daughter. Indeed girl power does save lives; it all starts within the family.
The honour of a man lies in honouring the honour of a woman.