While discussing the bill on abortion, some faith leaders are reported to have said the artificial forms of birth control are immoral.
Are they as immoral as adultery and homosexuality which the sacred book condemns?
In discussing secular subjects such as democracy and morals, we should exercise the right to reason and not just swallow whatever is put into our mouths.
Warnings on birth control have been made mostly by the clergy whose original countries have spared no effort to prevent overpopulation.
We understand in some of these countries, governments are offering cash inducements to married couples so that they should have one child.
Populations are said to be declining, says journalist G. Pascal Zachary in Development world 10/11 while much of the world now worries about the effects of plunging birth rates and declining populations, in Africa, overpopulation remains the most serious threat to well-being.
He dwells mostly on the population and economic problems of Malawi. He says the country is the most densely populated in Africa, much to my surprise, because I used to think that Rwanda and Burundi were more densely populated than Malawi.
Zachary suggests solutions to Malawi’s population problems which could be welcomed, but it is doubtful if our neighbours Zambia and Mozambique would be forthcoming.
Before going to the gist of the matter, let us dilate on the history of Malawi’s overpopulation.
All world civilisations grew where there were rivers. Is it surprising that even in holy books water is treated as sacred, as the source of life?
Travellers who came to Africa such as Dr David Livingstone noted that as they approached lacustrine regions, populations became more and more dense.
During the scramble and partition of Africa, some lake region people were lucky in that their region became part of a larger country. When population in the lake regions grew beyond limits, some people migrated to other parts of the country.
Where a lake region was made into a country on its own as in the case of Malawi, Rwanda and Burundi, shifting people from the overpopulated country faces gargantuan problems.
Zachary with strange optimism says: “Another possibility [for Malawi] is to encourage people to leave the country, just as migrants left Germany and Ireland during times of economic hardship.
“Land is plentiful in neighbouring Mozambique, for example, and many people in both countries speak the indigenous language and share customs. Zambia, another neighbour, needs more farm workers for its fertile land. Mobile Malawians could benefit both countries.”
How nice it sounds, only that such migration has become more difficult since the advent of independence in Africa. The tribal lands just across the boundary are no longer subject to the wishes and generosity of the traditional authority to which people on both side of the boundary owe allegiance to.
Countries such as Malawi have little option but to adopt birth control measures that can deliver results. Sometimes the end does justify the means.
I remember in 1993 reading a magazine, possibly BBC’s Focus on Africa in which, a Catholic nun in Rwanda was featured. She told the journalist that the church there stopped carrying out instructions on birth control from the Vatican because it had seen that the population was going out of control. Shortly, the genocide erupted in which Hutus tried to eliminate the Tutsi population and their Hutu sympathisers.
What was the cause of the genocide? Ethnic animosity? Not really! Because for nearly a thousand years, the Hutu and he Tutsi had been dwelling side by side with relative calm. That was the time when there was enough land and people were not facing the Malthusian consequences of overpopulation.
Birth control should be tackled scientifically as well as morally. Some morals and ethics are relevant to time and space. There was a time when charging interest to loans was outlawed by the Church. Nowadays, it is impossible to oppose interest charges on religious grounds.
People and organisations which champion the so-called silent majority should be realistic in handling current issues. If I remember correctly, not very long ago, the Pope who has just resigned recently modified his stand on the use of condoms.
Our donors have told us that the reforms introduced by the Joyce Banda administration are not reversible even if this administration is voted out in 2014. Do not give the poor hopes which are beyond reach except through sacrifices from all segments of society.