Battle lines drawn over contraception
FARAH, 15 March 2009 (IRIN) - There are indications
that some Taliban groups fervently oppose the use of
contraceptives and may start using the issue as a
pretext to launch further attacks on health centres,
A meeting in February - attended by IRIN - between
Taliban insurgents and dozens of local elders and
young men in Balabolok District, Farah Province,
southwestern Afghanistan, was devoted to the issue of
A pro-Taliban religious leader spoke for almost an
hour against the use of contraceptive drugs, calling
them “illicit and non-Islamic”.
“Those people who use anti-pregnancy drugs are
actually murdering children,” said Mawlawi Abdul Baqi,
adding that the use of such drugs was against Islamic
principles and should be avoided.
IRIN observed that participants at the meeting
appeared to be frightened, and frequently nodded to Baqi and a handful of armed insurgents to indicate
their assent. “These drugs belong to Kafirs
[infidels],” said an insurgent with an AK-47.
There were no women at the meeting and no one
mentioned maternal and infant mortality rates: Every
hour at least two Afghan women die from
pregnancy-related complications, and the infant
mortality rate is estimated at 127 per 1,000 live
births, according to aid agencies.
“The condom is a bad thing”
Taliban insurgents do not have a unified stance on
contraceptives, but leading spokesman Qari Yusuf
Ahmadi told IRIN by phone from an unspecified location
that the condom was a Western not an Islamic product.
“The condom is a bad thing which spreads obscenity
among Muslims," he said.
He said the condom should only be used on the
advice of a doctor to prevent disease.
“Contraceptive injections and pills should only be
used in exceptional circumstances... In general,
contraceptives should not be used to prevent
childbirth because Islam favours more Muslim children
and asks couples to give birth to as many children as
possible,” Ahmadi said.
Government advocates contraceptives
Unlike the Taliban, the Afghan government has been
advocating the use of contraceptives in an effort to
reduce maternal and infant mortality rates, and some
progress has been made over the past few years.
“Birth gaps have positive impacts on a mother’s
health and the practice is in compliance with Sharia
[Islamic] law so we will continue to recommend it,”
Abdullah Fahim, a spokesman for MoPH, told IRIN.
Scholars like Hamdullah Rahmani, a lecturer in
Islam at Kabul University, say the Taliban’s rigid
social policies originate more from “obscurantist
traditions” than true Islamic principles. “They [the
Taliban] are illiterate and do not know about the real
spirit of Islam… they’re wrong,” Rahmani said.
“A gap of at least two years between pregnancies is
entirely in accordance with Islamic laws,” said
Contraceptive pills and condoms have become
increasingly available, especially in urban areas,
since the demise of the Taliban in 2002.
Afghanistan has the highest fertility rate in Asia.
The average Afghan woman gives birth to 6-7 children,
according to the UN Population Fund (UNFPA). Rapid
population growth (Afghanistan’s population is
estimated to reach 56 million by 2050) poses serious
social and development challenges, experts warn.
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