The United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs recently issued a report projecting Saudi Arabia’s population to reach 37.2 million by 2020. The rural areas across the country have seen a dramatic increase in population.
However, family planning as an important tool to deal with the potential repercussions of the population growth is still a controversial issue in Saudi Arabia. Some view it as a threat to the survival of society while others view it as a social necessity. Yet, many view unrestrained population growth as a threat to development because overpopulation can halt overall development of the country by spending so much on healthcare and education.
Are there any Shariah grounds for banning family planning or has it become a necessity for the healthy development of society. Al-Riyadh newspaper met with a number of experts to shed light on the underlying issues with regard to family planning in Saudi Arabia.
Dr. Roshood Al-Khareef, a writer, said family planning as an option has been left to the discretion of individual families without the government having any say on the matter.
“I believe the government should do something about it. For example, it can give families incentives to adopt family planning as a way of life. There should be equilibrium between the population growth and the momentum of development,” he said.
Al-Khareef, however, added that population control is still a controversial issue in the Kingdom and many people believe it is the family that should decide how many children it will have.
Jumana Al-Dakheel, a sociologist, says any family that cannot meet the needs of its children and relies on charity should resort to family planning as an option to alleviate the harsh conditions of life.
“The purpose of marriage is to have a happy family with healthy children. But sometimes the harsh conditions of life make us reconsidering the choice of having more than two children. We have to think about the fate of those children before we give them birth. Family planning is one of the best options for poor people,” she said.
Room for rest
Dr. Intisar Al-Talyouni, a consultant gynecologist, recommended that mothers should rest three years after giving birth to the first child in order to recover and regain energy before getting ready for a new pregnancy. When a woman does not rest for a while after the first delivery, the baby will become more susceptible to certain diseases due to malnutrition. Mothers who have undergone cesarean section should rest at least three years before getting pregnant again, she said.
“I have noticed that many young married couples tend to put off having children in their first years of marriage, especially if their financial condition is not stable or if they study abroad,” she said.
Sociologist Muhammad Al-Hamza said birth control is a new concept in Saudi society. Birth control does not essentially mean that a family must have less number of children, rather it focuses on time gap between childbirths.
“The Saudi population has increased 86 percent in the last 20 years or so, with the growth rate reaching 2.1 percent compared to the global rate of 1.1 percent. No doubt better economic conditions have improved health and social aspects for members of the public and encouraged families to have more children,” he said.
It is important today that the members of society should understand and realize that having more children may affect the way these children are brought up and raised. Today, many families do not boast about having a large number of children as they used to do in the past because things have changed.
Sociologists should help families realize the importance of building productive generations and that will bring a lot of benefits to the country.
Dr. Nadia Naseer, family counselor, said today’s advanced life requires parents to pay greater attention to their children because life is getting more and more complicated. The rapid technological changes have made some parents lose control over their children as it is getting more difficult to watch over children and spend more time with them to discuss different issues, she said.
Maha Al-Qattan, a sociology expert, believes that birth control is the right option for modern life. It helps parents spend more time with their children, provide for them and mold characters that bring benefits to society. She called upon parents to adopt new and modern ways to help bring up their children properly.
This article was first published in the Saudi Gazette.