The Star (Nairobi)

7 November 2012

Kenya: Legal Hurdles in Population Control

The population of Kenya has been on a steady increase. This has raised concern that if the growth continues unchecked, there will be a population explosion.

The advantages of controlling the population growth cannot be said to outweigh its disadvantages. The population increase is adversely affecting the ever dwindling natural resources, and if it continues to grow any further, the existing resources will not be able to sustain the high population numbers.

This has led to the increased poverty levels, as parents cannot cope with the cost of bringing up children in healthy environments, hence the vicious cycle of poverty.

It is for these reasons that the government is seeking to put up mechanisms to control the population growth. On the other hand, if population increase is not properly and professionally controlled, Kenya is likely to end up like some developed countries, which despite the abundant resources don't have enough labour and workforce to exploit these resources.

These countries have ended up importing expensive labour from outside their countries. An effective population control policy needs to balance the population growth and control.

The millennium development goals provide for, among other things, sustainable population growth and sustainable economic growth. For these goals to be achieved there has to be a balance between population growth and economic growth.

The quest by the government to control the population of its people is in itself justified. In order to ensure that it provides for its people good and reasonable standards of living, which is a duty it owes to the people, it must strike a balance between population growth and the existing economic and natural resources. A very high population will be catastrophic to the economy and quality of life.

Despite the fact that there is need for control of population growth, this has to be done carefully so as not to violate social, family and human rights of individuals.

Each and every person has a right to live their lives freely, and to make personal decisions on the direction their lives should take. The government should therefore employ measures that are acceptable and that will not affect the lives of people.

This should be so because there is no legal framework that governs or controls any measures that the government intends to take in controlling the population of the country. This exposes the rights of the citizens as the government may embark on unorthodox ways of achieving its objectives.

All population control policies or mechanisms should work in such a way that the family rights are not offended. No one should feel micro-managed by population control policies or any legislation that a nation enacts.

In enacting laws that are aimed at controlling the population,the lawmakers have to consult the family.The social and economic rights as guaranteed unde Article 43 of our constitution will be achieved only if the lawmakers understand the family unit first.

There has to be a balance between the number of people in the family and the available resources. The state will only be able to fulfill its obligations of feeding its people if the resources are utilized properly and not exposed to abuse. Abuse can come indirectly if the population growth overstretches and or overwhelms the scarce resources.

Has the time come for the government to dictate the number of children one is entitled to through an Act of Parliament? Some countries have been able to come up with laws to control its population.

A good example is china which has effectively set up and implemented a one child policy rule. This has helped control the soaring population growth.

The importance of having a sustainable population growth cannot be overemphasized. It is the wish of each and every individual to lead a good quality life.

Policies for controlling population are therefore welcome, as long as they don't violate rights of individuals to have the number of children they want.

Governments should embrace persuasive ways of controlling the population, in that it is upto the person to decide and weigh if s/he thinks having fewer children is beneficial or not. Getting children should not be criminalised; it should be voluntary.

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