Iran uses door-to-door diplomacy to spark baby boom

Population drive aims to raise population to 150 million

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The Independent Online

Another revolution is about to take place in Iran, and this time it promises to be a whole lot more enjoyable.

About 150,000 health officials have been deployed for a programme of door-to-door diplomacy in an effort to persuade couples to have more children and single people to get married in an attempt to boost the population of the Islamic Republic. The move is in fact something of a U-turn, coming 20 years after the last attempt at state intervention into the nation’s bedrooms when officials offered citizens contraceptives and offered family planning advice to newly married couples.

Iran’s population currently stands at approximately 75 million. Last year, the country’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, ordered an end to the $15 billion (£9.8bn) national family planning budget and at the same time called for the population to reach 150 million.

Mohammad Ismail Motlagh, who heads Iran’s population programme, said that its main objective was to avoid producing single-child families. “In the marriage training course, we have focused more on the child-producing because the single-child issue has caused so many problems and provoked much debate,” he told the Fars news agency. Single child families are leading to “social and emotional problems,” he said.

Mr Motlagh even had advice for when couples should try and conceive more children, suggesting that couples should try for a new baby every two years. If the gap exceeds that period, Mr Motlagh advised that “couples should revise their methods and make plans in this regard."

Of course, in many respects sex is a taboo subject in Iran. The new programme is clearly targeted at married couples – especially so given that sex outside marriage and adultery are both illegal. Despite the ban, it is widely thought that the number of couples having sex before marrying has increased dramatically in recent years. The average age at which men get married is 40, and is 35 for women.

While Iran’s population surged during the last century, in recent years the rate of growth has slowed, largely as a result of the birth control policy. Scientists predict that at the current rate of growth - before the officials begin knocking on doors - will result in the population reaching 100 million by 2050.