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John, Anja
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Materialien und kleine Schriften 161
Specific research on the socio-cultural context of population programs has rarely been undertaken. If one wants fo find material on this issue, it is always related to other more general subjects such as women's status, traditional cultures, family life, health services, married women, family planning and developing countries. This is astonishing, when we stop to consider the planet's enormous population growth and the urgent need for us to react. It is by now well known that population programs are only successful in the long run if they can be recondiled with the socio-cultural background of the population they are intended to reach. Children in developing countries are wanted for specific reasons; people are not just bringing them into the world with no purpose. These reasons find their roots, in large part, in the socio-cultural background and once these are understood, arguments against them or solutions to them can be found. From this point on population programs can be effective to fight the population growth. Taking Muslim societies for example, the reasons for rejecting family planning methods vary between religion, morality, fear of side effects, and husband's disapproval. The religious and moral reasons can be countered with religious arguments, which, once laid out, can be understood by Muslim societies who may, in turn, change their behaviour. One of these arguments could be the fact that Shari'ah, as seen by several schools of Islamic law, and conferences on Islam and family planning, has room to allow the application of modern methods of contraception. Apart from that, it is said that Islam is a religion of ease and not of hardship, which will inevitably be the case if unchecked population growth continues. Thus there is a religious argument against the religious and moral opposition of Muslim societies to family planning. The fear of side effects of contraceptives, often mentioned by women, can be solved by appropriate explanations; and the husband's diapproval may end when he as well is addressed by the population program and has the opportunity to ask questions concerning the matter, perhaps in private. Regarding the great influence of the extended family, for example in Africa, India and Bangladesh, population programs should include them as well. The same goes for traditional healers, since they are often consulted by the local community and enjoy their prestige and trust which is not always the case for outsiders or experts working in a population program, unless they are recruited from the local community. Institutions like bridewealth, dowry, ancestor worship and poligamy are much more difficult to counter with good arguments, especially when dowry, like in India, is an easy way to gain money in times of economic crisis. But all this implies also that the socio-cultural context of population programs needs much more future attention.
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Working Paper
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