Tanzanian President John Magufuli has suspended advertising by family planning organizations until further review, raising outcry among human rights groups and causing unrest within Tanzania’s health ministry.
The move came weeks after Magufuli made international headlines for inflammatory comments calling women who use contraception “lazy” and saying that he does “not see any need for birth control in Tanzania,” one of the world’s fastest-growing countries.
Amnesty International denounced Magufuli’s stance as an attack on the sexual and reproductive rights of Tanzanian women.
Tanzania has a history of promoting family planning, making Magufuli’s sudden opposition to birth control surprising.
But, as my demographic research shows, Magufuli is not the only world leader questioning longstanding population control policies.
Magufuli, who took office in 2015, earned the nickname “The Bulldozer” during his previous two decades in Tanzanian politics.
His administration garnered early popular support in the East African nation for dismissing corrupt public officials and reorienting government spending, particularly toward anti-cholera operations and other public-health services.
Many Tanzanians, especially young people and urbanites, have lost patience with his strongman tactics, polling shows.
Now his sudden opposition to birth control has raised concern that Tanzanian women could lose access to contraception.
Since the Industrial Revolution, economic development worldwide has closely correlated with lowering birth rates.
In Africa, the United Nations has documented a relationship between high population growth and lower quality of life. High fertility can exacerbate poverty and strain resource-strapped governments’ ability to provide public services like health care and education.
African leaders have generally acknowledged the connection between demography and development, though their demographic policies have varied. Tanzania, a British colony until 1961, was one of the first countries in sub-Saharan Africa to embrace family planning.
In 1959, the Family Planning Association of Tanzania—now a member of the International Planned Parenthood Federation—was founded to offer sexual education and contraception, though not abortion services. Pacific Standard