“Not too early, not too late; not too many and not too close.”
This is the guideline that population control groups give to many women starting their families in Tanzania. The new president, however, has signaled that his administration will push instead for policies that demonstrate openness to life. According to some reports, he has declared that he wants to promote “zero contraception” during the remaining four years of his presidency.
There is no record of President John Magufuli’s exact comments, which were given recently at a meeting of his political party. But it is believed that he expressed his desire that people have more children, and said that with free elementary and secondary education being made available free of charge to all citizens, that he was removing a major impediment to having more children.
President Magufuli’s statements were later called “a joke” by a health minister, who denied that the president seriously intended to say what report his comments about having children.
Regardless of the president’s actual statements, his actions have given HLI’s affiliate, Pro-life Tanzania, encouragement. He seems keenly interested in creating a political climate that is welcoming to life and family in Tanzania.
Free Education to Support Openness to Life
It is true that the president has initiated a policy of free education for all children from elementary to high school, which he declared in an address to the nation in August.
This support of women and families is not the only good news regarding education in Tanzania. The government of Tanzania through the Ministry of Education and Vocational Training has developed a new sexual education curriculum reflecting the views of the majority of Tanzanians, one supported by Pro-life Tanzania. The previous curriculum’s emphasis was on Western-designed “comprehensive sex education” lessons from primary school through high school, promoting sexual license and immorality among young Tanzanians—a disastrous set of ideas that were of course followed by a commensurate rise in public health problems that follow such irresponsibility. Thankfully, sex education in the new and revised curriculum will be presented at the end of primary school, fitting each child’s particular needs. This news was hailed by Pro-life Tanzania, who have worked hard for such reforms for over a decade.
Against Gender Ideology
The new government has also discussed restrictions on the promotion of homosexualist ideology. The Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs has moved to suspend all non-governmental organizations who seek to undermine Tanzanian law by supporting gender ideology and same-sex “marriage.” Ministers in Tanzanian government have seen how in several “developed” nations demands for “tolerance” for those who self-identify in the LGBT community have turned to extreme intolerance almost overnight, following legal victories that have redefined marriage. With Christians in the United States losing businesses, being fired, and with entire states under attack for their defense of biological gender categories and traditional marriage, it is not lost on those who share these beliefs that what wealthy Western-funded NGOs call “progress” in this area veils a profound contempt for traditional values and hostility toward those who hold them.
One can certainly agree that no one deserves violence for their choice of self-identification, while still defending traditional marriage as the fundamental and pre-legal human institution upon which every healthy society is based.
Children are Not the Enemy of Development
Naturally, population control groups are furious with the new president’s statements that he wants no birth control promoted during his presidency. Reproductive Health Specialist Dr. Ezechiel Mabwai, for example, says that free education is not enough, that family planning entails much more than this. Mother-and-child health, economic security, and nutritional issues must be taken into consideration. Many children die before reaching school age.
There is, of course, something to this. Responsible parenthood certainly involves a wide range of considerations. But this is no contradiction to policies that express openness to life: no one policy will ever make the difference, especially when a society has a wide range of challenges that all require serious discussion and action. But it is simply ideological to present children as the enemy to progress when in truth they are a nation’s greatest resource. Almost every wealthy nation had significant growth in GDP, even with a total fertility rate well above replacement level, once structures were put in place that defended private property, created a just legal system for all citizens, and held policies that allowed greater economic freedom. All of this can be done while upholding life and family, even in nations with much higher population density than Tanzania.
The new government’s priorities have been welcomed by Pro-Life Tanzania, as they have been by millions of Tanzanians. Now our job is to support the President and his administration with up to date information on the harm done to women, families and societies by widespread use of contraceptives, and present pro-life policies that harmonize with the freedom and virtue that lead to a society’s true flourishing.