Birth Control Stirs Controversy in Egypt

Officials Urge Small Families, But Some Are Unconvinced
A group of girls. (Getty)

In a bid to curb population growth in order to guarantee the government’s goals for the provision of services to the public, Egypt’s President Abdelfatah Al-Sisi has called for a limitation of 400,000 newborn children a year. He called for two children for each family, warning that increased population negatively affects all sectors, but mainly education and health. He argued that having more than two children for each family is a big challenge to the country.

After the president’s remarks on this matter, lawmaker Rania Al-Gazayrli said that within days she would submit a draft law to the parliament on controlling offspring. She proposed that a family - two parents and two children - could get free education, health insurance and a full subsidy of all services. She argued that the third child of the family would be restricted to 50 percent of the subsidy and services, elaborating that a family with more than three children would not receive any free services or subsidy.

Commenting on the move, Minister of Religious Endowments (Awqaf) Mohamad Mokhtar Gomaa and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, the most prestigious Sunni institution in Egypt, Ahmad Al-Tayyeb, said that birth control is legal in Islamic Sharia. Gomaa, along with several officials and media people, urged citizens to adopt birth control especially in light of economic conditions facing the country.

The move pleases some people who receive good government support services as a result of abiding by this concept.

“I think the step is good. Two children are enough if we want to bring them up well. Having many children becomes a burden as they have neither good education nor healthcare,” Hajar Said, a mother of two children, told Majalla.

“People should know that raising children requires a great deal of energy, care and concern. There are many working moms who do not have enough time to look after their children,” she added.

If parents concentrate well on two or even three children, they will help them be more talented, healthy and creative, she argued.

Some people share Said’s view as they work almost all week long. They have to leave their kids at nurseries to look after them.

“I have to leave my son at a kindergarten as I spend about six hours at work every day. So birth control is actually implemented by some families due to their conditions,” another mother told Majalla.

“Our mothers had enough time and a simple life, even though laborsaving machines were not available to them such as we have nowadays. So our mothers used to give birth nearly every year. Nowadays, life is not easy as it was. Birth control is not bad for us today,” she added.

However, some people rejected the idea in general, saying it is not the root of the issues in society. They called for investing in humans.

“Population is a national wealth. If the government makes use of this fortune, it will bear fruit. We have a wide land that needs reclamation and manpower,” Mohamed Abu Baker, a journalist, told Majalla.

“The government should invest in individuals instead of calling for birth control. It should leave this matter for people themselves to decide what is suitable for them in line with their conditions. Working moms choose not to have more children because they don’t have time for child care,” he articulated. 

Labor can be invested in building more factories, reclaiming more farms and producing commodities…and so on, he stated, stressing that growing rates of population have positive impacts on the economy, not negative.

When population increases, there will be a chance to get more scientists and specialists in several sectors, Abu Baker noted.

Hanan Helal, a mother, said families either with two or more children are barely eligible for free services, noting that former officials had called for implementing population control but they failed. 

Afaf Mohamd said the country has many varied resources, which are not properly invested owing to corruption and mismanagement, but at the same time she does not oppose the birth control in general.

Some writers demanded societal dialogue to get a balanced vision about this matter in order to avoid any possible negative impacts when implementing the move.

In her article on Egypt’s Al-Masry Al-Youm paper, Dr. Amani Fouad suggested enacting a law allowing a maximum of three children to each family instead of two, elaborating that the three-child family can get full free services. Under the proposed law, the fourth child would be denied access to free government services such as education and healthcare, she said.

A family which has more than four children should be fined, but with no arbitrary measures, she pointed out.

Fouad holds both the country and citizens responsible for finding suitable solutions to this matter.

Some people say that Egypt gains its economic importance due to its population exceeding more than 100 million. They noted that there are 100 million consumers and therefore Egypt has been attracting several regional and international firms because it is a big market.

According to government’s statistics, the remittances of Egyptians working abroad are more than USD 26 billion, bigger that the country’s exports in a year.