Iranian clerics trying to curb baby boom

Posted: 17 June 2002

Having promoted a baby boom, Iran's religious leaders are now trying to curb it by discreetly touting vasectomies.

In 1979, when they seized power, the clerics called on Iranians to have more children to become soldiers in defence of their country and Islam.

But it's not enough, says the government. About 60 per cent of the population is under 25, and an economy that needs to create 700,000 jobs a year can only manage 250,000, according to government reports.

After the 1979 revolution, Iran's birthrate reached a peak of 3.6 per couple. By the late 1980s it was down to 2.7. Now, media reports say it's 1.6. But with so many young Iranians reaching the stage of building their own families, another baby boom may be coming.

Officials say at least 12 million of Iran's population of 70 million are living below the poverty line. Many Teheran schools have to operate two shifts. Unemployment is officially said to be 15 per cent, though private experts say it's about 30 per cent.

The government backs the population control campaign by providing all family planning services for free. Ration coupons for the needy to buy basics like cooking oil and sugar cover only three children per family.

Birth control pills, condoms, IUDs, hysterectomies and contraceptive implants for women are all permitted. Iran has its own condom factory, which claims to be the biggest producer of condoms in the Middle East and supplies 90 per cent of Iran's needs. Birth control pills are displayed in abundance in pharmacies.

Yet nothing can be advertised on state television or radio because any public mention of sexual matters is taboo.

Vasectomies first became available in Iran 10 years ago, and 675 doctors nationwide are trained to perform them. Each year some 30,000 Iranians have vasectomies, more than 5,000 of them in Sedqazar's clinic.

SOURCE: Associated Press, PlanetWire, IPPF.Related link