The rate of population increase is becoming overwhelming for Pakistan to support. A new study by the Population Council in collaboration with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation reveals that only one-third of married women in Pakistan, aged 15-49, use modern contraceptives, resulting in four million unplanned pregnancies in the country every year. While the obstinacy over the use of contraceptives is partly due to some people’s dogmatic beliefs about family planning being against the religion of the majority, many of the consequences of unplanned pregnancies are overlooked, especially with regard to neonatal and maternal health. On an individual level, unplanned pregnancies also result in unexpected financial load, which can, in turn, cause mental health issues to the mother and father, affecting the well-being of the child. On a holistic level, the world’s resources are running out. Our current wasteful lifestyles and heavy meat consumption are certainly not conducive to engendering a healthy environment in which to bring future generations and ignoring the aspect of family planning is anathema in this atmosphere of rapid overpopulation.
A facetious miscalculation on the government’s part is the lack of availability and access to contraceptives; this would be the first order of business to ensure that its infrastructure can support the population. In addition, of course, information needs to be disseminated to men and women in urban and rural areas. It would be apt to revisit school curriculae and finally introduce sex education that has been previously discussed in the corridors of power. If we are expecting girls as young as 15 to be mature enough for marriage, they would be better equipped after a course in sex education. Finally, a reconstructing of our population’s mindset is in order; a popular reason cited by pharmacists for failure to stock contraceptives is that there are no takers. It is time to open public discourse on the topic so as to spread awareness and knowledge and make population growth more manageable.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 17th, 2016.
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