Bill Ryerson has made, what is for me, a startling revelation. In an article he wrote 15 years ago, but which he has now just updated called “What’s Needed to Solve the Population Problem? Ryerson had this to say:
“….according to Charles Westoff of Princeton University's Office of Population Research, half the women categorized as having unmet need for contraception have no intention of using contraceptives even if they are freely available at their doorstep. The desire to delay or terminate childbearing is not adequate to bring about a reduction in fertility rates if women believe their lot in life is to take whatever God (or their husbands) give them, if couples cling to the tradition of producing large families, or if people are misinformed about the relative safety of modern contraceptives compared to the physical ordeal of bearing, say, ten children.”
He added, “ If this statement is true, the stunning significance of it is that, if all women everywhere had full access to contraceptives and used them with 100 percent efficiency to have only the number and spacing of the children they want, the rate of world population growth would drop only 30 percent.”
The primary problem therefore is not lack of access to birth control information about contraceptive services. It is cultural and religious prohibitions and programming. But ah, we Canadians just hand out the aid money unconditionally. We wouldn’t dream of telling the good bishops of the Philippines or Haiti or the mullahs of northern Kenya what they can do with their culture. After all, we won’t even tell bishops, mullahs, or religious cults what to do here in our own country. Because cultural relativism is the underlying philosophy of our national state ideology of multiculturalism. It’s Canada’s Ingsoc. All cultures and religions are created equal. A society that practices suttee is as good as one that provides for widow’s pensions, or one that tolerates bullfighting is no more to be held accountable than one that has a Royal SPCA. Fine.
But here is the deal. Country “A” now has provided access to birth control information to women despite religious and cultural roadblocks that have now been finally overcome, but the influence of religious and patriarchal attitudes still prevail and stop women from exploiting the needed information. But country “B” has done a cultural and religious housecleaning and women, armed with more educational training, are willing to use birth control but lack the information and medical supplies. Canada has a limited foreign aid budget, guess which country we should deploy our foreign aid money to?
When desperate religious patriarchies see that we can play hardball, and a tough love approach inspires other donor nations to follow suit, watch the old cultures get shaken up. Shape up, or ship out of the bread line.
That is my hunch anyway.