Indian birth control movement

The Margaret Sanger Papers
Last updated
Feb. 8, 2011, 9:20 a.m. (view history)

Developing a chronology of birth control activism in India.

[87] China and India had long histories of intellectual tradition on its population, as well as "hundreds of years of practical experience in regulating fertility." These countries served as "negative models in Malthusian theory"  and were held up as examples of places where famine was caused by overpopulation [88] Says that the politics of population in the West and the East didn't intersect as much as run parallel to one another. Eugenics organizations in China, India and Japan shared the same concerns that western ones did--that BC endangered the survival of the fittest. THey had to deal with efforts to spread birth control at the same time that their governments wanted to institute programs of national renewal that often sought to increase population. They could agree on issues that aided maternal and child welfare.

By the 1930s, neither China nor India were backwards when it came to birth control; in some ways they were on the forefront. In India, the Maharajah of Mysore had donated to the British Eugenics Education society in 1920, and took up birth control work a decade later. How-Martyn showed him the genius study, and in June 1930 he authorized two state hospitals to provide birth control as part of maternal health work, winning the distinction of having the first state-sponsored clinics outside of the Soviet Union. [89] Asian alliances for BC were no less complex than those in the US.

India became the "launching pad for a movement that would make population control the overriding priority." Like China, India had long been held up as an example of an overpopulated society, but unlike the political chaos in China, India was "relatively accessible and accommodating," with regular contact with the west, telegraphic offices, rail lines.  India under the Raj "remained open to inspection and instruction."  Many Americans traveled there seeing the population issues themselves and reporting back to the West. Some of them linked Indian culture as being one with nature, a force of nature, and closer to the animal-- How-Martyn wrote MS they "have the animal's unquestioning acceptance of life as it is and its surroundings." This "outsiders view of Indians" remained long after they won independence.  [90] Paul Ehrlich's Population Bomb reported an overwhelming feeling of crowding and teeming number of people in its argument for runaway post war population.

As in Japan and China, Indian academics, doctors and businessmen were well aware of the possibilities of "shaping population for political purposes." Most of these were writing in an English language, and were part of an Anglo-American network of BC advocates.  Sanger received letters from Wattal, Muhkerjee, and Ranadive, the same that were publishing in British journals and attending population conferences. Pillay's Marriage Hygiene was considered one of the foremost sexual research journals for a time.  By the 1940s, it was India who secured independence and began the worlds "first national policy to limit growth, a policy that was designed in consultation with international organizations and funded from abroad."

Before the 1930s, there was widespread resignation about the population, Megaw saying "The people multiply like rabbits and die like flies." He didn't think there was much point in improving medical services until they numbers began to decline, as the population was already at the limit of what the food production could support. If they decreased the death rate due to medical advances, the population would outstrip resources.  During the 1920s, the death rate declined by about a quarter--if one survived their 5th year, average lifespan was 38. This resulted in a 1% increase in population per year, enough to increase India's population by 33 million in 10 years. [91] Not known if the decreasing death rate came from improved health and farm efforts, or the development of natural immunity. Health care was rare in India, even by 1935, where most municipalities did not have qualified health offices.