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Last Updated: Tuesday, 13 February 2007, 17:04 GMT
Rwanda moves to limit family size
A Rwandan woman, man and child
Rwanda's population has quadrupled in the past 50 years
Rwanda is planning to limit couples to no more than three children because of rising poverty in Africa's most densely populated country.

The country has one of the world's highest birth rates. Some are keen to have children to replace the family members lost during the 1994 genocide.

The government is holding discussions with church leaders - hoping to win their support for population control.

Some 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed in the 100-day genocide.

President Paul Kagame is hoping to cut the birth rate by half - the average number of children per couple is six.

The country's population has quadrupled in the past 50 years and its nearly 9m people is expected to double again by 2030.

The International Planned Parenthood Federation says it is the first time an African government has attempted to set a limit on the size of families.


The BBC's Geoffrey Mutagoma in the capital, Kigali, says the growth rate of the economy does not match the alarming population growth.

Rwanda is a small country that is already extensively cultivated and one whose soils are being heavily eroded.

Because of the genocide, many people didn't want to hear about birth control
MP Odette Nyiramilimo

For this reason the government is now trying to sell the idea of cutting the birth rate to religious leaders.

Our reporter says that in Rwanda, religion is part of the social and moral fabric and therefore has a strong influence on people's beliefs and practices.

If the discussions go well, the government could quicken moves to legislation on the issue - which have previously been blocked, the New York Times reports.

"Because of the genocide, many people didn't want to hear about birth control," the paper quotes MP Odette Nyiramilimo as saying.

Most religious leaders have already announced that they share some of the government's concerns.

However, they remain reserved about matching population growth to the country's economy.

Our reporters says there is also the challenge of matching denominational beliefs with the principle of population control and how the government will apply it.

Do you think legislating on birth control is a good idea? If not, what can be done to encourage smaller families in densely populated countries?

Your comments:

In my opinion legislation in birth control is not a good means in the democratic world because it contradicts with the basic principles of human right, to have a child and a family. Since it is the base of the society, i advise those peoples to give birth in accordance to their economic status with out any restriction.
kassaye muluneh aynalem, JIMMA, ETHIOPIA

i think that it's a good step my country is taking towads achiving it's goals.let me thank all the people involved in this idea for we need to real control our grwoing rates if we want to give our offsprings the best life they want.

I had the opportunity of conducting an assessment in Rwanda regarding the rising birth rates. Focus groups discussions among many Rwandans showed that genocide played a role in their deisions to have children. Some women said that "having children was a way of finding meaning to their lives" , a reason to go on. While I fully support that women should limit the size of their children, I believe that this must come from a truly independent decision, based on understanding the benefits of having less children, peace, reconciliation and development. The scars of the Rewandan genocide for both the perpetrators and the victims is too soon for the government to come up with a policy such as this one.
Belkis Wolde Giorgis, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

I have lived in Rwanda for the past three months working with poorer rural coffee farmers. There is already hardly any space for these growing families to grow food to feed their families, and with each generation the family plot is further divided. And the reasons for impoverished families to keep having babies are complex and would be hard to address solely through education and rural development programs, however they would be ideal. But a law such as this makes sense, as the government here sees a huge problem in the near future that could effect the welfare of the entire country.
Jay Ritchey, At the moment: Butare, Rwanda. Originally: San Francisco, CA

Wow, isn't *anyone* learning from China? Forcibly limiting family size is never a good idea, it leads to many problems such as sex-selection abortion, infanticide, as well as placing too much emphasis on parental old-age security concerns. Look at the disproportion between men and women in some regions of China, does Rwanda, a former hotspot of ethnic tension, really need a larger proportion of bored, unmarried men? This would lead to both further political instability and promote further promiscuity, fanning fire on the AIDS problem.

Let people choose how many children they want to have, and offer POSITIVE incentives for them to have less (Tax breaks and government receipts for families that stay in the limit). And give them full information to make that choice as well as complete control over their birthing habits via contraception. It's that simple.
Matthew Collin, Lilongwe, Malawi

This is very good news. Rwanda should be commended for leading this pace in our beloved continent. Let us first develop our resources maximally before creating large families. Either we do this or resource constraints will do it for us. I for one believe the genocide was a consequence of resource control.
Aminu Wouba, Cameroon

It's time this subject is debated everywhere. The World cannot support the ever spiralling population. I support Rwanda for leading the way.
Doug Banks, Thornton, Ontario, Canada

The economy of Rwanda is too small to support such a big population, i mean there is no virgin land remaining uncultivated in the hilly tiny African nation. It's about time some one think about this idea of population growth-contral.If you doubt the truth about this please visit my home-country Rwanda.

Limiting the number of goods as good as it sounds, it goes against African morals and culture. In Africa, we cannot afford to import western ideals and impose them to our people. Soon, the governemnts may appprove genetically modified foods so that they can feed this ever increasing population. That is not African, that is North American. Consequently, we gone be asking how we can help our obese kids, cancerous population and so on. Every time you inport an idea that isn't culturally acceptable,you create many more problems. Leave it they way it is.
Teles Minega, Calgary, Canada

i think it a good idea. But you should give a reward to those who support the idea. many people will came to support idea quickly.
madlazibabayo, bindura, zimbabwe

Any law that infringes on a persons reproductive right is wrong. Although there must be something done about rapid population growth, I am sure that taking away a civil liberty is not the answer. Education is essential to making people in Rwanda and everywhere else aware of the affects that increased population growth is having on the earth and the economy. Many people, particularly, in Africa are still grossly uneducated about safe sex and contraceptives; this is what must change. Once people are made aware they should have the freedom to live out their lives as they best see fit.
Daira Raheem , Kalamazoo,MI

I think one of the good way to encourage smaller families would be to encourage the culture of adoption among Africans.
Safari Radjabu, Copenhagen Denmark

This is Africa we are talking about. Africans are proud people. Big families mean something to a lot of Africans. How dare the president try to restrict a couples' desire to procreate. Extreme poverty in Africa could have been avoided - the African leaders of yesterday, today and tomorrow know it, we all know it. This issue is more to do with trying to limit poverty which need not be necessary in this day and age. African leaders must stand up for their people and put an end to corruption and selfishness- they are leaders for a reason - the nation and the people - not themselves. Leaders need to realise they are there to lead. If a country was had a strong economy and was over populated, I could understand a move towards trying to limit the number of children a couple could have. There are underlying issues here which need to be addressed.
Marie , luton

National programs need legislation in order to be sustainable and where birth control is of national interest leaders have a duty to educate the population on the necessity of legislating it so as to have it incoporated in national programs. The legislative procedure should respect the cultural and religion affiliation of the society to win national acceptabilty
Isaac Rodrot, Malindi kenya

The 800 pound gorilla in the room has not been mentioned at all here. Despite Kagame's best intentions in matching the country's economic growth with its population, this will become a heavily politicised issue. The Hutu majority will be most affected by this policy and opportunists will use it as further evidence of the RPF systematic erosion of their community. The use of religious leaders is a right step forward.
Big Country, Kigali, Rwanda

Legislating birth control is not necessary for countries where families can afford to look after their families however big they are. I think population density has little to do with poverty in Africa, there are small countries in Europe where their population is really high. Instead of spending money on birth control, let invest that money on other poverty eradication programs.
Prossy, Uganda

I think the wealthy developed nations should come together and create a social security type system for poorer over populated nations. This social security, or guaranteed income for couples in their old age, should be offered to those couples who voluntarily have no more than 1 or 2 children. This will be a strong incentive to use birth control, and will alleviate the problem of couples feeling they must have many children to care for them in their old age. It wouldn't cost that much for the wealthy nations to cover this, and it would benefit everyone worldwide.
Neira-Niika, Chico, California, USA

The government should let the people be. This will not work as we have seen in China. As a result of this policy being implemented in China, we have seen many female children abandoned and today we have an overabundance of unwed males in the Chinese society. We also know that it did not stop births in the country side (effectively only one child per family could go to school). Looking at the Chinese example, this will not work.
Fatmata Barrie, Virginia, USA

I think it's a great idea. As a Congolese I am opposed to almost anything Kagame says and thinks but this is one is great. I mean it is not enough to have children. They must be looked after as well. To give the future generation chances of succeeding, we need to provide as much as possible today. One does not need to be a mathematician to realise that with given income and all things being equal, it is easy to turn three kids into cultured adults than if one had six. Marie is just wrong. What are the causes of corruption? Is it not lack of culture and principle in people that make them walk on the laws of society and nature? This, I believe, is brought about by neglect. When children are not properly oriented while they still can be - and this mean providing physical, emotional and psychological stability - once they become adults, they will not have reference nor will they tend to look at society with reverence. Some will become members of militia, terrorising cities or even entire countries. Why are there child soldiers in Africa? Well, it is because some parents, having made more kids than they can provide for, simply neglect them, leaving them to the mercy of gangs and the rest is knownż I think this policy, if well implemented, can produce wanders in 20 or 30 years time. Most Rwandans will be fairly educated, well brought up and perhaps there will never be a repeat of extremists working to exterminate an entire family, village or tribe. Wars, battles and fights are due to man and what is inside him. If you put garbage in his mind (because as a parent you don't have enough for your 6 children) while he is still a child, as an adult he will produce corruption, and all similar ills that Africa suffers from.
Papi Mbikay, Bedford, UK

this is a good idea for the people of Rwanda and l want all the african countries to do the same especially nigeria.
Sylvester Ikpotokin, Ireland



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