Pakistan is the world fifth highest populated country with a staggering figure of 212 Million people living within an area of 881,913 sq.km. Only countries such as India, China, United States and Indonesia are higher than us in the ranking of population. Even though we are the fifth largest country by population, we are only the thirty-third largest country by land area (there is some dispute over Kashmir) making our land surface area on Earth only 0.6%.
This high population cannot be attributed to a single factor but rather a multitude of causes play its role such as high birth rate (Pakistan has a birth rate of 3.5 and with crude birth rate of 27/1000 births, third highest in Asia), low mortality rate, poverty, lack of education, religious reasons, early marriages, unavailability of contraceptive measures, child labour, immigrants, propaganda against family planning but above all I think it’s our mindset and behavioural thinking.
People in Pakistan have a mindset that children are blessings and hence should always be welcomed. The more the better. That it is against our religious teaching and ethics to even consider contraception. That more children are a sign of God’s blessing. Children are the cutest gift. A house without children is like a graveyard. It is programmed into the mind of our girls and young women that a woman only completes after she becomes a mother. Our sense of accomplishment, worth, success and achievement are tied early on whether we have a loving healthy family or not. That we must be good daughters, good wives and eventually good mothers. That it is somehow our duty and obligation to produce children and then raise them. And the story does not stop here. As soon as a couple gets married, the only thing they will be asked is when are they having a baby? Whether it is a family function, birthday party or a wedding every married woman consider it their birth right to analyse the newly wed bride and ask with great mystery: any good news? Couples of same age group are compared consistently and reminded again and again that they already have a baby although they get married after you, when are you having one?
Everyone from old ladies to far related aunties will start telling all the totkas, remedies, miracle food, herbs, fruits, vitamins and immunity boosters and what not to the poor soul who just want to enjoy her marital life. When this does not result in positive results the search for best gynaecologist and physicians begun. Weight loss, thyroid issues, hormonal imbalances, each avenue is thoroughly investigated mostly within a few months of the marriage. Taking a little time for themselves or not starting a family immediately is considered “modernisation”, “Western culture” even in some conservative households as blasphemy. With this mindset it is no wonder that peer and social pressure plays a great role in the psychology of new parents. Some time it is not the parent who are so eager but people around them.
This same mindset also has an especial preference for male child. Sons are considered special and have many privileges that a girl-child does not have. They are the name bearers of their family, bread earners and the ultimate support for old age parents. Thousands, if not millions of examples can be given where in hope of having a son, parents have multiple daughters. Some time they do have their wish come true sometimes they do not.
When the good news finally come it’s not a full stop to this mindset and behaviour.
A new cycle of endless advices and counselling begun.
- Have one more immediately so that two can be raised together.
- Oh, it’s a girl, next year will be boy.
- Oh, it’s a boy next have a girl so that your family could be complete.
- Your biological clock is ticking make the most of it while you still can.
- Early mothers are better, late age can cause a lot of complications.
- Two children are too few should at least three.
- Three is not an even number have one more so that brother will have brother and sister will have sister.
To some reading my article, it may seem that I am exaggerating or turning something, which is not applicable to everyone into a universal fact. I agree that not every household has this mindset, but I am not talking about a particular family, region or group. This mentality applies on most of our society if not all of it. Keep in mind that majority of our population lives in small cities, towns and villages where effects of urbanisation and education has not fully permeated. Consider this, if even half of our country thinks the way I have written, it makes the figure 106 Million which is a huge number. Even if we consider quarter of our population the number will be 53 Million. I am in no way saying that it’s the only cause or the prime cause, I just want to highlight the fact that our mindset plays an important role behind this problem of overpopulation and when we are making policies to overcome this giant problem, we must keep in mind to encounter this mentality.