By Ladane Nasseri 


Dubai: Iran’s parliament has banned vasectomies and tubectomies except to save a person’s life as part of the nation’s push to promote bigger families.

The parliament also voted on Monday to prohibit the “promotion of birth control” and said that media outlets that don’t comply risk being suspended for as long as six months, according to the Tehran-based Etemaad newspaper.

The changes in the law are part of Iran’s wider efforts to counter a decline in the national birth rate, which Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has said stymies the country’s progress. Births in Iran, a country of 77 million, dropped to 1.6 children a woman in 2012 from 6.4 a woman three decades earlier, according to United Nations data.

In May, Ayatollah Khamenei ordered officials to take steps to encourage Iranians to marry younger and have more babies. In a 14-point decree, he asked officials to remove obstacles to marriage and encourage larger families by assisting with childbirth costs and male infertility treatments.

The document also called for setting up counselling programs to strengthen the family unit and to promote an “Iranian-Islamic lifestyle” over a Western one.

Iranian women in disadvantaged parts of the country used to have free access to condoms and contraceptive pills while men were able to opt for free vasectomies through a government population-control program whose budget was halted more than two years ago, according to women rights activists.

Some officials and sociologists have warned against aspects of the new laws, saying they may pave the way for underground abortions.

Introducing punitive legislation to push population growth is unlikely to work, according to Health Minister Hassan Hashemi.

“We need to convince people, otherwise we will go back to 20 years ago when illegal abortions were on the rise,” Mr Hashemi was quoted as saying in a Shargh newspaper article dated July 3, “We too are concerned that the birth rate is declining but we shouldn’t act on a whim”, by passing harmful laws.

Sociologist Amir Mahmoud Harirchi said European countries used policies to encourage rather than punish families for having children. Mr Harirchi told the Iranian Students News Agency in a June 25 report that, “turning this matter underground will only make things worse”.



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