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Iran to ban vasectomies in bid to boost birth rate

A handout picture released by the official website of the Iranian President Hassan Rouhani shows him speaking during a meeting with Iranian foreign ambassadors and diplomats currently visiting the Iranian capital on August 11, 2014 in Tehran. AFP PHOTO/IRANIAN PRESIDENCY WEBSITE/MOHAMMAD BERNO

DUBAI: Iran’s parliament has voted to ban permanent forms of contraception, the state news agency IRNA reported, endorsing the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s call for measures to increase the population.

The bill, banning vasectomies and similar procedures in women, is parliament’s response to a decree Khamenei issued in May calling for more babies to “strengthen national identity” and counter “undesirable aspects of Western lifestyles.”

The bill, approved by 143 out of 231 members present in parliament, according to IRNA, also bans the advertising of birth control, in a country where condoms are widely available and family planning considered entirely normal.

The law now goes to the Council of Guardians – a panel of theologians and jurists appointed by the supreme leader who examine whether legislation complies with Islam.

It aims to reverse Iran’s declining population, but reformists see the law as part of a drive by conservatives keep Iran’s highly educated female population in traditional roles as wives and mothers.

It also worries health advocates, who fear an increase in illegal abortions. State media reported that the number of illegal terminations between March 2012 and March 2013 was 12,000, more than half the total number of abortions that year.

Abortion is legal in Iran if the mother is in danger or if the fetus is diagnosed with certain defects.

During the war with Iraq in the 1980s, Iran offered incentives to encourage families to have more children, but that was reversed in the late 1980s, amid concerns that the rapid population growth could hobble the economy and drain resources. Khamenei’s edict has once again reversed the policy.

Iran’s birth rate stands at 1.6 children per woman, lawmaker Ali Motahari said. At that rate, the population of more than 75 million would fall to 31 million by 2094, and 47 percent of Iranians would be above the age of 60, said Mohammad Saleh Jokar, another lawmaker.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on August 12, 2014, on page 10.

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Summary

Iran's parliament has voted to ban permanent forms of contraception, the state news agency IRNA reported, endorsing the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's call for measures to increase the population.

It aims to reverse Iran's declining population, but reformists see the law as part of a drive by conservatives keep Iran's highly educated female population in traditional roles as wives and mothers.

Iran's birth rate stands at 1.6 children per woman, lawmaker Ali Motahari said.


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