Underlying the BJP’s concern about a ‘population explosion’ is a false belief that one community, Muslims, are reproducing at a faster rate than others.
Days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke of India’s ‘population explosion’ in his Independence Day speech, an RSS-backed organisation declared that there was no need for sex education in schools.
It’s an astonishing stand in a country where 240 million girls are married before 18 and only 7.1% of married women between the ages 15-19 use contraception. Awareness of birth control (along with sex education) is a key driver to fulfilling the PM’s assertion that keeping family size small is an act of patriotism.
At 1.37 billion people, projected to swell to two billion by the end of the century, concerns about India’s burgeoning numbers are not new. In 2016, a BJP MP introduced a bill under which couples opting for a third child would need government permission. That bill never came up for vote and in July, Rakesh Sinha, a nominated BJP MP introduced another bill that singles out couples with more than two children for punitive action, including disqualification of elected legislators, as well as incentives (cheaper health care, subsidised loans) for those who stick with two.