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Nonsense, senator

Family Planning Board says Reid’s 2-child suggestion ill-conceived

Tuesday, February 11, 2014    

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OPPOSITION Senator Ruel Reid was the target of more flak yesterday over his controversial call for a mandatory policy bonding Jamaicans to have no more than two children for at least 10 years.

The fresh salvo was fired by the National Family Planning Board - Sexual Health Agency which described the senator's suggestion as puerile and a trespass on human rights.

"Any action to mandate a woman or man to, or not to, have children is not only a human rights infringement, it is ill-conceived," the family planning board said in a late evening statement.

Reid, who is also principal at Jamaica College, made the call in the Senate last Friday as he opened the State of the Nation Debate.

He framed his suggestion against the background of the number of children who are now registered under the Government's Programme of Advancement Through Health and Education (PATH), which offers assistance to the poor.

Said Reid: Of note, Mr President, we now have 50 per cent of all children on PATH. This means that we are having too many children that parents cannot care for. I am not opposed to a mandatory policy of no more that two children for any male or female for the next 10 years until we resolve our socio-economic issues. We cannot continue like this. What is the status of the father's registry? Poor parenting undermines our education performance and contributes to the high levels of crime and violence and the dysfunctionality of the family and society."

Reid, who has since been criticised by political commentators and some members of the public, acknowledged that the proposal was controversial, but said it needs to be discussed.

In an apparent effort to strengthen his argument, Reid pointed to China's one-child policy and the fact that many years ago Jamaica had a 'two is better than too many' reproduction campaign.

But yesterday, the Family Planning Board, which ran that campaign, countered that its drive to empower women to voluntarily reduce the number of children has led to the successful reduction of Jamaica's fertility rate from 4.5 in 1975 to 2.4 in 2008.

"According to the 2011 Population and Housing Census, there has been a 3.5 per cent increase in population growth in nine-and-a-half years, since the 2001 census," the board said.

"This increase represents an average yearly growth rate of only 0.36 per cent and continues the reduction in the annual rates of growth observed since the 1970s. In essence, there have been less than 100,000 additions to the population between 2001 and 2011, which reflects that Jamaica has a stable population," the board added.

The agency argued that, as a result of its successful family planning campaigns in the early 1980s, ageing is now a matter of concern, as shown in the census.

"In the ageing of the Jamaican population, a terrible burden will be left on the new generation," the family planning board said.

"Moreover, the implications of having an ageing population mean that there should be no further reduction in Jamaica's fertility rate. To do so would place us at risk of falling below replacement-level fertility," the board added.

It also insisted that "the approach to force contraception is not an option", even as it acknowledged that "there are pockets of Jamaica that are having unplanned and, in some cases, unwanted children".

However, the agency maintained that a woman's sexual and reproductive health rights are not to be trampled. "To do so would put Jamaica on the trajectory for yet another human rights debacle."

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