KABUL Aug 23 The Afghan government is trying to
curb a booming population by promoting birth control but such
efforts have been met with caution from aid groups and
opposition from Islamic scholars.
The Ministry of Health warns Afghanistan's population of 30
million will double in as many years, stunting opportunities for
economic growth in one of the world's poorest countries.
Despite escalating violence and a surge in civilian
casualties in the NATO-led war against insurgents, the Afghan
women manage to have 6.3 children on average over their
lifetime, according to the United Nations.
"In countries like Afghanistan, where women are illiterate
and repressed, (family planning) could be difficult," Wagma
Battoor from anti-poverty organisation CARE's Kabul branch told
Reuters on Tuesday.
She was referring to remarks last week by Afghan Health
Minister Suraya Dalil, who said the government has launched a
"multi-sectoral effort", which would include the use of
contraceptives. Dalil did not go into details on what kind of
birth control the government wants people to use.
Using condoms, birth control pills and other forms of
contraceptives would be extremely difficult in Afghanistan,
which is a conservative Muslim society.
In rural areas and the Taliban strongholds of the south and
east, many women still seek permission from a male relative for
most decisions, including leaving their homes.
Battoor said for contraceptives to work in Afghanistan, men
must be involved.
"In addition to providing education, counselling and
improving women's access to birth control supply, it is equally
important to include men in the family planning discussion," she
But that would be difficult in the eyes of Islamic scholars.
"It is not up to us to control the reproduction of
children," said Khalilullah Mohammad, a lecturer in Islamic law
at Kabul University.
The relatively high success with hormone-containing birth
control in wealthier Muslim countries such as Iran and Jordan
prompted views that birth control for fear of poverty or to
prevent conception permanently is unlawful under Islam.
"The holy Koran tells us not to kill your children... If
anyone asks me advice on this new plan, I will strictly oppose
it," Mohammad told Reuters.
(Additional reporting by Mirwais Harooni; Editing by Yoko