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A new direction in population policy and family planning in the Islamic Republic of Iran



A new direction in population policy and family planning in the Islamic Republic of Iran



Asia-Pacific Population Journal 10(1): 3-20



This article traces the history of Iran's population policy from the establishment of a family planning (FP) policy in 1967 to the present. Context for the discussion is provided by a review of population growth in the country since 1900. Indicators for 1966, 1976, and 1986 show population size growing from 25.7 million to 33.7 and 49.4, respectively, as the crude birth rate fluctuated from 49 to 42.7 to 47.6, and the total fertility rate changed from 7.7 to 6.3 to 7.0. These figures reflect changes in population policy which promoted the use of effective contraceptive methods among urban women in the period 1967-79 but which led to only 11% acceptance by 1977. From 1979 until 1988, the newly established Islamic Republic allowed family planning programs to disintegrate. In 1988, the results of overpopulation could be seen, and a new program was established in 1989 with the full concurrence of religious authorities. This program is attempting to 1) encourage birth spacing of 3-4 years, 2) discourage early and late pregnancies, and 3) limit family size to three children. Government support for this program is evident in financing commitments and in the creation of disincentives to have more than three children. Services are provided in 400 centers which emphasize sterilization and provide a range of contraceptive options including Norplant and injectables. Data from the 1976-77 Iran Fertility Survey (IFS) and the 1992 Contraceptive Prevalence Survey (CPS) show that, in 1976, 85% of women had heard of oral contraceptives. The CPS revealed 90% knowledge of at least one method and more than 70% approval of FP. The IRS showed 35.9% of all currently married women using contraceptives; the corresponding CPS figure was 64.6%. The urban-rural gap in knowledge and use which existed in 1976 also narrowed by 1992, but the popularity of certain methods varied by urban-rural residence. Positive determinants of contraceptive use for both periods include literacy and number of living children. Preliminary data reveal that the new program has led to a significantly reduced growth rate as well as a decline in the total fertility rate and in the number of registered births. These declines may also be due to a significant increase in marriage age from 1986 to 1991. Iran's new FP program has been successful because it has the support of religious leaders and operates with the moral authority of a fatva issued by the Ayatollah Khomeini. Other Islamic countries could create successful programs in a similar way.

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Accession: 045079981

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