The manner in which leaders arrogate to themselves the right to tell women how many kids they should have is a uniquely “affirmative” action, cutting across communities. Remember the motherhood cult when fertile mothers were awarded along with frontline troops, Honor Cross of the German Mother? It was a bronze for more than four children, a silver for more than six and a gold for more than eight. The wartime slogan was “I have donated a child to the Führer.” The overt aim behind pronouncements now is to outbreed other communities. Never mind that we are in the 21st century, our Napoleon Bonaparte clones think they can rightfully define a woman’s reproductive role.
BJP MP Sakshi Maharaj had announced Hindu women should have four children, give one to the Army, another to religious leaders and teachers. Another MP declared five was the magic number if the community were to thrive. A separatist leader from Jammu and Kashmir asked Muslims (the well-to-do ones) to marry more than once and have as many children as possible. This would preserve the Muslim-majority character of the state. The latest to jump on to the babies’ bandwagon is the Jathedar of Akal Takht, Giani Gurbachan Singh. His view is that Sikh women should have four children to counter the dwindling population and be a support for parents.
Insensitivity is not an exclusively Indian trait. Way back in 2007, Japan’s then health minister had commented on Japan’s low birthrate: “Because the number of birth-giving machines and devices is fixed, all we can ask for is for them to do their best per head.” Surely we in India can factor in women’s health and population control before thinking of kids merely as part of an electoral arithmetic. Lest we should forget, it is a woman’s body. So why not let her decide when and how many children she should have or not have. It is a personal choice. Do not make it a political option.