Indian Lawmakers Block Attempt to Bar Politicians with More Than 2 Kids

July 7, 2008 - 8:02 PM

New Delhi ( - Lawmakers in India have blocked legislation prohibiting politicians with more than two children from running for office - a law that some argue might encourage abortion.

With 72,000 babies born every day and a population of more than one billion, India is expected to overtake China in the first quarter of the next century as the world's most populous nation.

"Except for the Communist Party of India, all other political parties opposed legislation at the all-party meet held to evolve a consensus," Indian Health Minister N.T. Shanmugham said.

No female lawmakers had attended the meeting, he added.

An amendment to the constitution first introduced in 1992 proposed that politicians who exceeded the "two child norm" would be barred from running for office at a local, regional or national level. Civil servants would also be affected in a later phase.

Already five states have implemented the "two-child norm" in local elections, although passage of the legislation through parliament would require a two-thirds majority.

Hundreds of lawmakers in the 543-seat parliament have more than two children, and dozens have between six and nine.

The Muslim League's G. M. Banatwala cited religious reasons for opposing the bill. "If a Muslim having two children wants to marry again, won't he/she be allowed to have children from the second marriage?" he asked.

Another lawmaker raised the problem faced by a widower with two children who wanted to marry a widow with children of her own.

A lawmaker from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party pointed out that "the usual reproductive age of human beings is between 18 to 35 while the average age of Members of Parliament is 50. That means most of the MPs are well past their reproductive age and hence the legislation would have no impact on them."

Women's organizations said that, in India's male-dominated society, women seldom have choices in motherhood.

"The law may be misused by men to disqualify their spouses from contesting elections," a woman activist said.

In a disastrous population control program in the 1970s, Sanjay Gandhi, son of then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, encouraged doctors to sterilize as many people as possible. Some Indians were forced to undergo operations or were sterilized without their knowledge.