Church petitions against move to curb population growth

via Pioneer News Service | Kochi published on October 7, 2008

The Catholic Church in Kerala has started efforts to defeat the Left move for limiting through legislation the number of children per couple to two and to impose a fine of Rs 10,000 for each child born thereafter. The law reforms committee appointed by the Government has already recommended that a law is desirable to keep a check on the population growth by restricting the number of children per couple to two. The committee is headed by Justice VR Krishna Iyer.

The Pro-Life Council of the Kerala Catholic Bishop’s Council, the most influential collective of the Church heads in Kerala, has submitted a memorandum to the State Human Rights Commission requesting rejection of the recommendation of the law reforms committee to fine parents for their children in excess of two.

The Pro-Life Council has said in his memorandum to the rights panel that it was the right of the parents, vested in them through the institution of marriage, to have offspring and that it was the right and responsibility of the parents to decide how many children they should have as per their financial, health and social situation.

The council said that no country or government had the right to interfere in this right of the parents.

It asked in the memorandum submitted to commission member S Varghese that the Government should not be allowed even to consider the recommendation of the commission.

The recommendation of the law reforms panel had come at a time when the Christian society in the State was searching for ways to salvage the Christian population from a steady fall witnessed in the last three decades.

It was only recently that the church had begun considering ideas like providing special support to families with three or more children in Church-run hospitals and educational institutions.

The committee had in July drawn up the draft of the proposed Bill, Kerala Family Planning and Control Bill, for legal provisions to ban giving birth to more than two children per couples.

Apart from imposition of a fine of Rs 10,000 on couples for every child they begot after the second child, the draft also proposed that such children should not be given education or other social benefits.

In the particular context of the Church’s call for having more children than two, the committee also wanted the Government to prohibit the efforts to promote begetting and rearing more children than two per couple on the basis of community, religion, class, caste or region.

The law reforms panel had also recommended regular awareness campaigns on family planning methods in the rural areas. It also wanted distribution of contraceptives and other family planning implements through hospitals and community and primary health centres.

The committee had drawn up the recommendations because there were no comprehensive and effective laws to control population growth. The panel held that certain communities were trying to grab several benefits through collective efforts using the population size as strength thus leading to the collapse of the financial system of the State.

In Kerala, Hindus constitute 55 per cent of the total population, while Muslims form 24.7 per cent. The Christians constitute 19 per cent or less.

The larger family concept is being mooted by the Church in the context of the fall in the population growth at a rate of 0.40 per cent a decade. Sources in the Church say that the Hindus in the State also should view the situation seriously as their rate of fall of population growth, at 1.55 per cent a decade, was far more critical in the context of a growth in the Muslim population at a rate of 1.75 per cent in ten years.

KCBC sources say that demographic studies show an alarming trend in Kerala where Muslim families alone are showing increase in children, while the number of kids in both the Hindu and Christian families has been falling sharply.

Among the chief seven denominations of the Christian Church in Kerala, Syrian Christians, who constitute 80 per cent of the total Christian population, are the most concerned about this fall in population. “Our men and women had got good education and this had contributed hugely to the shrinkage of the population.

It is when we are trying to find ways to re-educate them to have more children the Government is moving in to restrict our strength,” said a KCBC source.

The source said the Syrian Christian population, which stood at 9.7 per cent of the total Kerala population just a year ago could plummet to a mere eight percent in another ten years. “The children-per-couple status among us is less than 1.7 while that of the Muslims is above three”, he said.

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