Earlier this month, thousands of men around the world decided to get their tubes snipped for World Vasectomy Day -- including dozens who got the procedure done live on the Internet. Vasectomy Day seeks in part to highlight a global sterilization gender imbalance. Women are three times as likely to undergo sterilization, often through invasive and dangerous procedures such as tubal ligation. A grim illustration of this followed only a week later, when 12 women died in India during a marathon six-hour operation to sterilize 83 women. Not surprisingly, World Vasectomy Day enjoyed great success in India and the Ministry of Health declared an entire week of observance, a welcome sign of change from 2008 when the state of Madhya Pradesh offered men gun licenses as incentives for sterilization so that they would "not feel less manly."
Desperate to control its booming population, India pays its citizens to undergo sterilization. Poor women are the overwhelming recipients, with 37% of women having undergone operations. India's aggressive promotion of sterilization receives harsh criticism. A number of studies have shown, however, that population growth can have a negative effect on economic development. This week the UN released its State of the World Population 2014, and throws hope for the future on development rather than control. This report has in previous years discussed challenges from violence, climate change and urbanization, but this year it "shows how young people are key to economic and social progress in developing countries and describes what must be done to realize their full potential." China has become concerned enough about its aging population that last year it relaxed the One Child Policy, inspiring many to predict a coming baby boom. Instead, out of 11 million couples -- mostly relatively affluent city dwellers -- that became eligible to have a second child, only 700,000 have applied for a license. It is an open question whether the economic prosperity that is now slowing population growth was enabled by the One Child Policy, or came despite of it.
When we last discussed the problem of population growth on Salon a number of you highlighted the importance of reproductive rights and family planning, as well as the ongoing political and religious threats to both in America and in the developing world.
But who has responsibility for overcoming such concerns and taking the lead in controlling population growth? Do we need national or international incentives for family planning, or should the priority be economic growth and prosperity?