Hello, can we talk about birth control?
September 17, 2014

Author: Hafsa Maan

One of the gravest issues plaguing most of the developing countries is over population and the inability to curb it effectively. While it is the most talked about problem in certain groups, it is not an easy issue to discuss in Pakistan owing to its cultural and social values.

Raising the issue of birth and population control in Pakistan puts you in the cross hairs of social and religious controversies. It is almost impossible to have a local, let alone an engaging national discourse on the issue of population. While this is true, sweeping the issue under the rug will only impede the advancements made in other development sectors. A high population growth rate takes a hit at the national/global resources and compromises the efficiency of the developments made in all other sectors, like health, education, infrastructure, etc.

The reason why population and birth control is not discussed is simple. The social and religious constructs backed by a low literacy rate cause the majority of the population to refute, undermine and reject any such campaign , program , publication or movement. Thus, it is important to highlight some of the behavioural and social stigmas attached to this discourse.

  1. The religious authorities react severely to the issue of birth control by labelling it sacrilegious. The common man is easily influenced by such unwarranted claims by uneducated clerics.
  2. It is considered a social taboo, especially, in the rural areas to discuss and seek advice on the issue of birth control.
  3. If any campaign is launched in the media, PEMRA jumps in to ban it.
  4. The low literacy rates position a common person poorly in terms of being a good judge of circumstances and life choices.
  5. The low literacy also explains the lack of effective sex education, family planning and other relevant health advice.
  6. Even if someone is interested in birth control, it is hard to locate authentic and qualified professionals for guidance on the proper techniques and avenues.
  7. Men/women may feel embarrassed or threatened to be seen or heard talking/seeking advice about birth control.

Keeping in mind the various pitfalls, it would seem like a good idea to create a platform where information on birth control and family planning can be obtained anonymously without the seeker feeling ashamed or persecuted.

Leveraging the innovative technological advancements, such a platform can be developed to reach people in remote areas as well. A kind of platform that allows the user to be:

  1. Anonymous
  2. Open
  3. Interested
  4. Curious

A simple hotline will be cost effective and easy to access for people with diverse geographic and demographic backgrounds.

Maybe people want to have this discourse but they just don’t know how. This is a simple and private method which delivers information to the seeker without placing him/her outside of her comfort zone. This medium has been successfully used for educating a similar segment in the recent past as well.