This House believes men are the key to family planning in Uganda

In 2050 the global population is set to stand at 8.9 million (UN-Population, 2004). Africa, as a whole, will account for 20% of the world’s population by 2050. Such figures have raised concern within discussions on development and the environment. How can the rising population continue to sustain itself? Theories have previously been used to express how populations interact with the environment. Firstly, Malthusian and Neo-Malthusian perspectives emphasise the environmental sets limits to growth. A population size can only be sustained over time as long as it doesn’t rise over the environmental threshold limit to growth. Secondly, and alternatively, Boserup’s theory suggests that when faced with scarce environmental resources we make adaptations over time. The growth in a population can be met with technological, and political, alterations to its environment to adapt and sustain expansion. Following such ideas raises the question: what action should be taken to control the rising demands made on diminishing resources? One such strategy is family planning.

Family planning schemes have been implemented across Africa. The implementation of family planning has been justified through environmental, gender, and economical, discourses. This can mean presenting family planning as an effective means to control the population demand on scarce resources; empower; and offer an opportunity to reduce vulnerabilities within livelihoods. However, a key critique raised against family planning approaches is how it should be approached. The case of Uganda raises interesting debate. Uganda’s approach has called for the direct inclusion of men. Often in family planning women are targeted as the recipients, distributors, and key actors, within family planning in Africa. However, in Uganda’s approach family planning works across gender. Family planning is a service provided by the government along with international actors such as the UN population fund(Heuler, 2012). The service involves providing a range of short and long-term contraceptive methods (i.e. distributing condoms and injections; or providing education and advice). Both men and women are called upon, to understand and be aware of what measures to take.

This debate returns to the concept of family planning and how it is applied in the case of Uganda, to question whether bringing in men is the right approach. In doing so investigation is provided into what family planning is; whether it should be used; and whether the problem is who is involved. 

Title 
Gender equality in family planning
Point 

By including men in family planning programs and the decisions made concerning family structures equality is enabled. The decisions made, and responsibilities, concerning the ‘family’ are no longer solely the burden of the woman. Men are provided with a voice, and therefore responsibility and obligation to act upon caring for the family. 

By introducing men into family planning a platform is provided enabling negotiations on the family to be discussed between man and woman. Men are key actors in decisions made; therefore their inclusion is fundamental. This also means that the man is also much more likely to take on other responsibilities in terms of caring for the family or doing things the woman would have done in the past like collecting medicine (Wasswa, 2012).

Counterpoint 

Whether gender equality in family planning creates wider gender equality is questionable. Does gender equality emerge by including men in family planning, previously a predominantly female domain (the reproductive sphere), without changing gender structure? For example, what has actually changed? Presumably if the men wanted a say in how many or few children they had before they would have been listened to. Another question is whether the negotiation decisions, and outcomes, equal?

Gender equality requires changing what gender means; and how women, men, and sexuality are experienced. Can we talk about gender equality when socially constructed gender roles remain prevalent? Moreover is there a spillover effect? If there is not then women are simply ceding control over one area without a gain elsewhere; hardly good for equality. Gender equality is a right; therefore universal and it should count everywhere not just in the reproductive sphere.

Title 
Controlling domestic violence
Point 

By including men in family planning the ideas, and misconceptions, of what happens when women use family planning can be changed.  Gender-based violence is a key concern that can be reduced by involving men in family planning decisions. If they buy into having fewer children then they are less likely to object to using contraception and condoms – something that has other potential benefits such as preventing STDs. The United Nations Development Fund for Women has found that one in four women is abused during pregnancy, teaching men about reproductive health and family planning can prevent this from happening.(International Women’s Health Program)

Although evidence is limited the MAP (Men As Partners) program in South Africa showcases the positive effect of including men. The intervention is changing men’s attitude and behaviors[1].

[1] See further readings: Peacock and Levack, 2007; Engender Health, 2014.

Counterpoint 

Does it really work? Efforts to include men is claimed to have failed in several districts across Uganda. Men remain skeptical of letting women use family planning; believing the planning the number of children a woman has is unnatural. Therefore women are vulnerable to abuse if such programs are used[1].

[1] See further readings: Nangonzi, 2013

Title 
Involving men is the best way to ensure family planning works
Point 

By including men fast action can be taken to control the size, and growth, of families. The patriarchal power structures mean men have a key voice in household decisions. Therefore the involvement of men in family planning is enabling perceptions of what the family should be to change. The cost of raising a family is realized, and intervening methods are being used to have fewer children. Family planning means planning how one can cope with having a child – mentally, emotionally, financially, and physically, and sensitizing couples as to what kind of life standard they want. With the young generation of Ugandans a new culture of a smaller family can emerge[1].

Men often have limited knowledge about family planning so it is necessary that they are included in learning and the transfer of knowledge (Kaida et al, 2005). When both partners are knowledgeable and involved family planning is far more likely to become a reality.

[1] Wasswa, 2012.
 

Counterpoint 

The idea of family planning is wrong; and it reflects the unequal power structures operating in society. Within African cultures families are polygamous, extended, and far from the ‘normal’ neutral family structure. Therefore by enforcing family planning we are failing to understand what the family is across Africa.

Family planning is simply seeking to limit choice about the structure of the family. Just including man and wife rather than any more extended family is itself encouraging a certain structure that not all Africans agree with or desire for their family.

Title 
Family planning is wrong: controlling sexuality
Point 

The idea of family planning involves controlling, and suppressing, sexuality. Sex becomes understood as purely a source for reproduction, and women and men in Africa (or Uganda) requiring control.

Additionally the ‘normal’ relationship is identified between man and women. Freedom to express sexuality is repressed by understanding sexuality as heterosexual. The idea of the family is maintained as a heterosexual reality

Counterpoint 

By including men in family planning programs a new respect emerges towards sex and what men expect women to do. By being made aware of the reproductive costs and demands men are able to respect the bodies and choices of women. Women no longer become passive, but recognized and respected as having their own sexual desires, preferences, and constrains. Family planning does not suppress sexuality, if anything through encouraging the use of contraception and condoms encourages it. 

Title 
The need to include the wider family
Point 

Decisions on how big, or small, a family should be; and how it should be structured are not solely the decisions of husband and wife, or man and woman. Extended family members play a key role. For example, research carried out in Nigeria by Smith (2004) indicates decisions remain influenced by cultural norms and pressures.  The pressure for a high fertility, amongst Igbo-speaking Nigerians, is shown to be a paradoxical factor of patron-clientalism and the culture of ‘people power’. High fertility and subsequent kinship networks enable state legibility, resource access, and the continuation of ‘tradition’. Elder family members aim to maintain traditions. A crucial distinction therefore emerges, as it is not simply a rational choice when it comes to family planning but rather influenced by political-economy factors and wider family demands. Therefore including men in Uganda does not necessarily allow an understanding of what role the wider family plays. Decisions on family planning are not simple, or always open for discussion. 

Counterpoint 

When it comes to family planning the extended family has little power over intra-household decisions. Extended family members will not be attending clinic meetings, collecting contraception, or engaging in intimate action. The power in family planning returns to man and wife. Additionally, the inclusion of men into family planning will change ideas of reproduction for all. If men are included at all levels ideas will change, and overtime pressures will change. As all men and women learn about family planning they will become much more sympathetic to it within their extended family.

Title 
Alternative essentials
Point 

We should not be focusing on including men, but rather alternative essentials such as funding, resource distribution, and awareness. For example President’s Museveni’s recent commitment to raise government funding for family planning from 3.3 million to 5 million is vital[1]. Further, by improving the supply and distribution of contraception, into the health service sector, President Museveni has drawn attention to the financial constraints in family planning.

[1] Advance Family Planning, 2014.

Counterpoint 

Reducing the cost of family planning; making more contraceptive resources and materials available around the clock; and distributing commodities to hospitals does not ensure access. There is no point increasing funding for programs that will not get used due to a lack of popularity or continued ideas of family planning and management. Improving the ‘alternative essentials’ can only work if those using reproductive resources are supported and in a patriarchal society this means needing the involvement of both men and women. 

Bibliography 

Advance Family Planning, 2014, Uganda, http://advancefamilyplanning.org/uganda

Heuler, H., 2012, ‘Family Planning Faces Hurdles in Uganda’, Voice of America, http://www.voanews.com/content/family_planning_faces_hurdles_in_uganda/1363730.html

International Women’s Health Program, 2009, ‘Men as Partners’, http://iwhp.sogc.org/index.php?page=men-as-partners&hl=en_US

Kadia, A., Kipp, W., Hessel, P., and Konde-Lule, J., 2005, ‘Male Participation in Family Planning: Results from a Qualitative Study in Mpigi District, Uganda’, Journal of Biosociology Science, 37, 3, p 269-286, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15906884

Smith, D, J. 2004. ‘Contradictions in Nigeria’s Fertility Transition: The Burdens and Benefits of Having People’, Population and Development Review, 30, 2, p 221-38.

UN-Population, 2004, World Population to 2300, http://www.un.org/esa/population/publications/longrange2/WorldPop2300final.pdf

Wasswa, H, 2012, ‘‘Enough is Enough’ – The Ugandan Men Opting to Have Fewer Children’, The Guardian, http://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2012/nov/26/enough-ugandan-men-fewer-children

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