Population control reloaded: the anti-politics of the family planning enterprise

Sonja Merten (Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute)
Joelle Schwarz (University of Lausanne)
Room 28
Session slots:
Friday 14 June, 10:45 - 12:30

Short abstract:

Family planning programmes respond to a global ecopolitical dynamic, reflecting and reproducing the global discourse of population control in the global South. This panel explores the population control discourse as masking global and local inequalities and local practices of family planning.

Long abstract:

While the global wealth gap continues to increase, expressions of the intention to reduce poverty have gained momentum on the international political agenda. Concomitantly, private initiatives of a small number of super-wealthy individuals increasingly define the development strategies that are applied to poor populations. Tracing back to Malthus, one of the primary axes of action for sustainable development and poverty reduction is population control. Based on the assumption that having too many children is a risk for further impoverishment of already poor households and the constraints of many countries to meet the needs of increasing populations, family planning programmes experience intense funding on the African continent. Behavior change approaches dominate the focus of current family planning policies and interventions aiming at controlling the size of poor populations, rather than pursuing politics of redistribution. Family planning programmes further respond to a global economic dynamic and don't necessarily translate into a large offer of contraception methods. Global economies and power-structures are thus reflected and reproduced in the global discourse of population control in the global South. In this context it is often overlooked that local elites are partly benefitting from the population control discourse as this doesn't challenge the widening socioeconomic gap and unequal power-structures within their countries - instead it masks them by shifting the attention to the unruly behavior of poor people. To what extent does this lead to resistances towards family planning programmes?