Iran is to ban vasectomies and female sterilization in an effort to reverse its plummeting birth rate and ageing population. A bill has passed parliament and only remains to be approved by the Guardian Council. Doctors who perform procedures such as vasectomies or tubal ligation, could face fines and prison sentences. Journalists will also be prosecuted if they publicise birth control or other family planning measures.
The bill follows years of concern by Iran’s rulers about its demography. After the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s, the government encouraged large families. Afterwards, however, a big population was regarded as a drag on development. The government promoted contraception, so much so that the birth rate fell from about 6.0 to less than 2.0.
Ayatollah Khamenei has been criticising contraception and has said that the country should aim at doubling its population from 77 million to at least 150 million.
On Iranian state television in May, Khamenei told Iranians that they should “save yourselves from this ominous culture of one child or two children nonsense” and to choose an “auspicious Shiite number” to determine how many children they should have. “Have five children as in the Five of the Purest, or eight children as in the eighth Imam of the Shiites, the holy Imam Reza, or have 12 children in the name of the 12 Shiite Imams, or 14 in the names of the ‘Fourteen Sinless’ saints,” he said.