Human Rights Key To Controlling Population Growth
Human rights are a basic entitlement of everyone, irrespective of gender, race, religion or nationality. These rights include, but are not limited to, bodily autonomy; the right for a person to govern what happens to their body without external influence or coercion. In some parts of the world, however, the reality paints a very different picture.
One of the biggest human rights issues still prevalent today is gender inequality, with hundreds of millions of women around the world still denied access to work, education and healthcare. And with gender inequality and human population growth inextricably linked, specific services such as reproductive healthcare and family planning are key to controlling overpopulation, by empowering women and girls to make informed choices about their lives.
It’s been reported that 270 million women with a need for modern family planning are denied access to it, either through lack of facilities, or because of discrimination or oppression.
And when women are empowered with choices over having children, they have the power make a significant impact on their communities, as well as on the environment. Quite simply, smaller families have a reduced carbon footprint, through lower consumption, waste and pollution.
“All our environmental problems become easier to solve with fewer people, and harder – and ultimately impossible – to solve with ever more people.” Sir David Attenborough
A recent study by Project Drawdown reported that reducing future populations by empowering women through education and reproductive healthcare, could help to cut 85 Gigatonnes of CO2 emissions by 2050. With human population growth directly linked to climate change, this means that global access to family planning has the potential to ease worldwide environmental challenges such as deforestation, pollution and loss of biodiversity.
Malala Yousafzai, who was shot by the Taliban in 2012 for standing up for women’s rights, said: “When girls are educated and when they stay in school, they get married later in their lives and have less children, and that helps us to reduce the impacts of climate change that population increase brings.”
Back in 1968, the United Nations International Conference on Human Rights stated that “couples have a basic human right to decide freely and responsibly on the number and spacing of their children” and that while sovereign nations were free to design their own population policies, those policies should pay “due regard to the principle that the size of the family should be the free choice of each individual family”.
Today, with 4.5 billion more people on the planet, the United Nations has created 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which aim to achieve ‘decent lives for all on a healthy planet by 2030’. Empowered women play a key role in the agenda (SDG 5 – Gender Equality), as they could have the power to make informed choices about their future, particularly around reproduction and family size. But progress on the UN’s SDGs is slow, partly due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. Violence against women and girls in many parts of the world has increased, with fewer staying in school or having access to reproductive health services.
The need to slow (or even reverse) human population growth by making gender equality more widespread and improving women’s access to education and reproductive healthcare, has never been greater.
And whilst the carbon footprint of each individual does vary across the globe, there is no doubt that having smaller families can only help to ease the burden on a planet that is already stretched well beyond its environmental capacity to regenerate. Less crowding, lower demand on natural resources, cleaner air, the return of degraded ecosystems and reduced carbon emissions are just some of the benefits that could be seen in future decades by successfully addressing the critical issue of human overpopulation.
“Overpopulation will destroy us unless we start doing something about it now.” Yan Vana
Submitted by Friends of Retha