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Focal Theme 3


Population policies, both pro-natal and anti-natal, policies are premised on ‘ordering’ the structure and growth of population with women [particularly poor women of color, indigenous people, and other marginalized communities] being specifically targeted.

Countries of the South, the more populous among them in particular, now find themselves trapped into considering their populations as a ‘problem’; worse, any and every evil in society [be it economic, social, or any other] is blamed on the inability of the system/country to deal with numbers. This obsession with quantity rather than addressing issues of the nature, direction and processes of development has overt and covert eugenic manifestations. Technologies not only facilitate the ‘privileging’ of one sex over other but also decide as to which groups, communities, etc., are desirable and which are not. Women’s wombs are the sites wherein this plan of controlling the numbers as well as ‘regulating’ of the populations is played out through the indiscriminate use of invasive and hazardous technologies on the one hand and through the denial of access to simple basic health care technologies on the other.

The ‘unmet’ needs of contraception is actively addressed by many developing nation states, but the enabling environment to make contraceptive choices; issues of safety, informed consent and ethical practices is being eroded for large sections of the population in the countries of the South. The receding public health system and a growing but largely unregulated, unaccountable private sector compounds the problem further.

The resurgence of population policies across the globe takes different forms and draws on widely shared popular beliefs regarding the relationship between population, conservation and the environment, thereby making it so much more difficult to organize broad-based resistance. In particular, we need to unravel in more detail the population-military nexus, a point alluded to in our Introduction. The nature and effectiveness of our strategies depend crucially on how we understand the overt and covert functioning of different state and non-state institutions and agendas across the globe.

The 10th IWHM hopes to cover new and changing ground on these and related issues. In particular:

  • The changing language and agenda of donor agencies and countries, and the overt and covert manifestations of such agenda in the ‘population policies’ of donee countries.
  • The ‘demographic anxieties’ of below-replacement level population growth countries and the adoption of selective immigration policies that simultaneously and control the growth of ethnic and refugee minorities.
  • The gendered implications of changes in the compositions of population, for example, the increase in size of the elderly population [and such dependants], specifically in contexts where there is no social security in place or where budgets for these segments are being cut or selectively administered.
  • The population-environment and population-military nexus that invoke narratives of expanding human populations destroying forests and landscapes obscuring the role of resource extraction by state and corporate interests.

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