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A Closer Look: Pakistan, Population and Development

In a perfect follow-up to my post from last week about the demographic dividend and population control policies, the Federal Minister for Population Welfare in Pakistan, Chaudhry Shahbaz Hussain, has said that national development is linked to the controlled population in the country.

In a response to the "country's high birth rate" the Minister Hussain wants to create awareness about family planning among the "uneducated segments of the society." That is all well and good—education about sexual health and family planning is certainly critical in many nations in South Asia—yet here again we see the burden for national development placed on the backs of poor people. All too often these people are poor women and policy aims to regulate their reproductive lives based on certain beliefs about their fertility, rather than to interrogate any other practices and policies affecting sustainable development.

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Bust and Boom! Demystifying the Demographics

The effects and politics of the population debate have been flaring up around the world as the stakes, like the distribution of global resources, get higher and higher. So, when we get the chance to demystify the political and economic lingo about demographic changes, I say we should jump at it.

The Population and Development Program at Hampshire College has recently published a paper by Anne Hendrixson, as part of their series DifferenTakes, that aims to shed some light on what seems at first glance to be a very complicated argument about demographic changes. The theory recently propounded in the IMF's September 2006 issue of Finance & Development is called the "demographic dividend."

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Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: A Legacy of Social Justice

"There is no human circumstance more tragic than the persisting existence of a harmful condition for which a remedy is readily available…In our struggle for equality we were confronted with the reality that many millions of people were essentially ignorant of our conditions or refused to face unpleasant truths. The hard-core bigot was merely one of our adversaries. The millions who were blind to our plight had to be compelled to face the social evil their indifference permitted to flourish…We knew that there were solutions and that the majority of the nation were ready for them. Yet we also knew that the existence of solutions would not automatically operate to alter conditions. We had to organize, not only arguments, but people in the millions for action. Finally we had to be prepared to accept all the consequences involved in dramatizing our grievances in the unique style we had devised."

MLK upon accepting the Planned Parenthood Federation of America's Margaret Sanger Award. Read the entire speech.

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Women and Children, This Way Please

On its 60th anniversary, UNICEF has launched a report asserting that gender equality is critical to child survival and development. "The State of the World's Children 2007" investigates the status of children all around the world. The report found that by bringing an end to gender discrimination we would create the "double dividend" of benefiting both women and children. "The lives of women are inextricably linked to the well-being of children," said UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman. "If they are not educated, if they are not healthy, if they are not empowered, the children are the ones who suffer."

The report suggests seven key interventions for gender equality (which is UN Millennium Development Goal #3).

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Wish Big: New Year’s Resolutions for the 110th Congress

In the reproductive justice arena, 2006 has been a year of big wins and a few heartbreaking losses. For better and worse, the year has been a doozy. You know about some of the challenges already, but you also know that hard work pays off, and there were several excellent successes, too.

Since these are the days that many folks are thinking and rethinking their New Year's resolutions, now's the perfect time for some guidance. Coming up with the perfect resolution requires a delicate balance: a combination of something that you really want with something that you can actually accomplish. I thought I'd take the liberty of helping out our incoming Congress by offering a few suggestions they might resolve to achieve this year.

1. We resolve to do something about the fact that more than 40 million Americans don't have health insurance. We will not get bullied by insurance conglomerates and private interests in this matter. People need health care and we can make it happen.

Many, many of the reproductive justice issues that we face today are matters of health care. For example, access to pre- and post-natal care can change the lives of thousands of women and children in the US each year.

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Banning Female Circumcision

Muslim scholars from around the world have called for female circumcision (also called ‘female genital mutilation' or FGM) to be banned. They have unequivocally claimed that Islam offers no justification for the procedure and that those who carry it out should face punishment. At the recent conference on the subject, the religious scholars went so far as to assert that governments should make and enforce legal consequences for those who continue the practice.

Just in time for International Human Rights Day, December 10th.

A little background: Female circumcision is the removal of all or part of the external female genitalia. With some of the most severe practices, a woman or a girl has all of her genitalia removed and then stitched together leaving openings for intercourse and menstruation. According to Amnesty International, an estimated 135 million girls have undergone the procedure.

Last week, the gathering of Muslim scholars claimed that the practice amounts to violence against women and Islam forbids people from inflicting harm on others. They held that those who circumcise their daughters were doing exactly that.

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Once Again, Viagra Wins


RH Reality Check would like to introduce Eesha Pandit as a regular weekly writer. Most recently, Eesha served as Associate Director of Programs at the Civil Liberties and Public Policy Program (CLPP) which is a reproductive rights organization that trains, educates, and inspires new leaders, organizers, and supporters nationwide. Prior to joining CLPP, Eesha worked with the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at Harvard University and with Amnesty International USA's Women's Rights Program. She is currently a graduate student at the University of Chicago.

Last week, the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals heard an appeal of a 2005 federal court ruling that mandated Union Pacific Railroad to cover contraceptives in its health insurance plan.

Planned Parenthood and two female employees of Union Pacific filed a lawsuit that would require the company to provide coverage for FDA-approved prescription contraceptives for female employees, as well as female family members of male employees covered by the company's health plan. Judge Pasco Bowman, who sits on the appeals court panel, says that if the ruling sticks, it could mandate ALL companies to cover birth control in their health-care plans. Let's hope.

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