Overpopulation fear-mongering, Structural adjustment and Peru

The simplistic blame-game associated with over-population is ridiculous.  The dynamics of what happens when people have children are more complicated than the traditional privileged environmentalists articulate in their ‘more babies mean more trees get cut down.’

Consumption of things that are made out of trees is why trees are cut down.

I almost always credit Betsy Hartmann whose insights have helped me to better understand population and consumption issues.  Here is Betsy explaining the distinction:

Don’t get me wrong. I support the provision of contraception and abortion as a fundamental reproductive right and as part of comprehensive health services. What I’m against is turning family planning into a tool of top-down social engineering. There’s a long and sordid history of population control programs violating women’s rights and harming their health. That’s why feminist reformers in the international family planning field have fought hard to make programs responsive to women’s — and men’s — real reproductive and sexual health needs. A world of difference exists between services that treat women as population targets, and those based on a feminist model of respectful, holistic, high-quality care.

via On The Issues Magazine: Fall 2009: The ‘New’ Population Control Craze: Retro, Racist, Wrong Way to Go by Betsy Hartmann.

Of course, the enthusiasm for reducing population translated into devistating programs of sterilization around the world.  Most recently this history of sterilization is impacting the election in Peru.  Paid for with United States Agency for International development money, the Peruvian dictator Fujimori sterilized almost 300,000 women against their will.

The sterilisation program came about as a poverty reduction strategy. In the early 90s Peru had, under Fujimori, put in practice one of the most aggressive structural adjustment policies ever implemented. It was so forceful that even the World Bank advised the Peruvian government to slow down. As a result of prolonged economic crisis and neoliberal reform, 50% of Peruvians lived under the poverty line and population control was an ideal to aspire to. The UN population conference in Cairo in 1994 and the women’s Beijing conference of 1995 provided Fujimori with inspiration, and his government received funding from USAid to undertake the ambitious project.

via Peru’s sterilisation victims still await compensation and justice | Natalia Sobrevilla Perea | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk.

That’s right.  We have to lay some of the responsibility for this systemic violence against women at the feet of the United Nations and the leaders of first world nations.   The forced structural adjustment policies, and the US-funded United nations overpopulation projects also deserve blame.

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