The Iranian experience in implementing a successful population management program has become a model for many countries that seek to overcome the debilitating burden overpopulation presents to development aspirations. The most remarkable aspect of Iran’s program is in how what was once a religious directive to go forth and multiply had been repealed by the very same religious offices that issued it back in the heady days following Iran’s Islamic Revolution.
Prior to 1979, Iran had already been in the middle of a promising reform of laws around divorce and family planning to help empower women and encourage their employment. Unfortunately all this was interrupted by the overthrow of the secular government that oversaw these reforms, and the measures already in place were dismantled by the Islamic regime that came to power…
Unfortunately, this promising [divorce law and family planning] initiative was reversed in 1979 at the beginning of the decade-long Islamic Revolution, led by Shiite Muslim spiritual leader Ayatollah Khomeini.
During this period, family planning programs were seen as undue western influences — and were dismantled.
Iran’s health officials were ordered not to advocate contraception.
At the time, the Ayatollah Khomeini saw a large population and continued procreation to further increase its size as a means to meet his goals of building an “Islamic generation” and breed “soldiers for Islam”. The results were drammatic. By 1988, Iran’s population was 55 million and growing at over 3 percent annually. By then too, Iran’s economy was faltering and overpopulation was starting to be seen as a roadblock to national development. Indeed, it was Khomeini himself who eventually went on to re-open the issue of birth control in 1989…
Receptive to the nation’s problems, Ayatollah Khomeini reopened dialogue on the subject of birth control. By December 1989, Iran had revived its national family planning program.
Its principal goals encourage women to wait three to four years between pregnancies, discourage childbearing for women younger than 18 or older than 35 — and limit family size to three children.
In May 1993, the Iranian government passed a national family planning law that effectively encouraged couples to have fewer children — by restricting maternity leave benefits after three children.
What is truly inspiring is the way Iran’s own Islamic leadership, exhibited an astounding capacity for reflection and introspection — and a focus on reality — to amend what had been found to be unwise directions set for the country in the past. Not only did Iran’s Islamic officialdom ease its restrictions on family planning initiatives, it did a complete reversal and threw its full support to the effort…
[…] the Ministry of Islamic Culture and Guidance was told to allow the media to raise awareness of population issues and family planning programs, and the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting was entrusted with broadcasting such information.
Today, Iran runs a comprehensive and deeply-integrated family planning regime…
Strong government support has facilitated Iran’s demographic transition. Under the current president, Mohammad Khatami, the government covers 80 percent of family planning costs.
A comprehensive health network made up of mobile clinics and 15,000 “health houses” provides family planning and health services to 80% of Iran’s rural population.
Almost all of these health care centers were established after 1990. Because family planning is integrated with primary health care, there is little stigma attached to modern contraceptives.
Religious leaders have become involved with the crusade for smaller families, citing them as a social responsibility in their weekly sermons.
They also have issued fatwas, religious edicts with the strength of court orders, that permit and encourage the use of all types of contraception.
These include permanent male and female sterilization — a first among Muslim countries. Birth control, including the provision of condoms, pills and sterilization, is free.
One of the strengths of Iran’s promotion of family planning is the involvement of men. Iran is the only country in the world that requires both men and women to take a class on modern contraception before receiving a marriage license.
And it is the only country in the region with a government-sanctioned condom factory.
The report “Iran: A Model for Family Planning?” from which the above excerpts were taken goes on to cite the positive impact these measures have had on Iran’s literacy rates, gender equality, access to information, access to safe water supplies, and education attainment.
Iran is right up there with China in demonstrating how ideologies and philosophies once thought to be incompatible with Western standards of progress were re-engineered and became instrumental to the success we see today in these countries.
Is the Philippine Roman Catholic Church up to the task of showing real spiritual leadership by exhibiting an ability to be open, reflective, and most important of all humble in the way it conducts itself as a participant in a state matter currently being evaluated by the Filipino people?
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