City joins global no-kids campaign

A group worried over environmental degradation discourages couples from having children.

Girish, 33, is undecided about many aspects of his future but one thing he knows for sure — he does not want children.

“I don’t have many expectations from my future wife but I do want someone who will understand why I am saying this and will support my decision,” he says firmly. 

Girish is among the growing tribe of young urban Indians who don’t want to add to the burgeoning population on earth.

The motivation for the campaign is the extreme pressure on natural resources. 

A community of such ‘antinatalists’ (people who believe it is cruel to bring a living being into this world as they are doomed to suffer and cause suffering) have formed a global community on Facebook, titled The Voluntary Human Extinction Movement (VHEMT).

The Facebook page of VHEMT (pronounced vehement) says it is a movement advanced by people who care about life on planet earth.

They are clear they are not misanthropes or anti-social misfits who want disaster to strike mankind; they are propagating abstaining from reproduction to prevent environmental degradation and manmade disasters. 

“If people refrain from giving birth, humankind will gradually become extinct,” explains Girish, a long-time member of the Facebook community with thousands of members across the globe. “It is not a doomsday prediction; when you read and observe the environment and the effect humans have had on it, you realise bringing another life onto it would only cause misery to that person.”

Earth is running out of water, land and air per person, and members of the group ask themselves the question, “Why would I want my child to suffer like that just because I wanted to live up to society’s expectations by procreating?” 

While radical antinatalists view birth as morally wrong, less extreme ones like VHEMT members understand it is virtually impossible to stop everyone from procreating.

They say a contribution can be made by abstaining from having one’s own children and going in for adoption instead, or stopping at one biological child and adopting more children if they feel the need to have a larger family. 

Many pros

Fewer people on earth mean lesser pressure on the earth’s resources, lesser carbon emissions, lower garbage production, slower climate change and so on.

“Personally too there are many advantages,” says a member of the group who does not want to be named. “You get more time to do all that you want. There is no denying that motherhood takes away a lot from a woman, from the point of view of career, ambitions, social life and more. People, especially in India, have a very narrow view of what a meaningful life is for a woman. Deciding to have children because you want to perpetuate your genes is a biologically selfish act,” the MNC professional says.

“There are plenty of babies in the world,” says Piyali Guha, advertising professional. “To satisfy the motherly instinct, you can always adopt a child. This entire concept of giving birth to prove your femininity is antiquated,” she says.

...and some cons

The cons are mostly personal, loneliness and dependency in old age being among them.

“There is no guarantee children will take care of you in your old age, and we have enough real-life testimony to this. What about children who go abroad or work in other cities? You can’t expect anybody to be there for you,” points out the MNC employee.

She says people have to be more independent and make provisions for old age. She underlines the need for more old-age homes, and senior citizen condominiums and gated communities.

How to face people

From being called infertile to being labelled selfish for not having children, couples who go child-free have to face many questions and accusations from family. 

“I feel the family will never agree; they are not used to thinking like this. What you can do is try talking to them calmly and explain your rationale. If that doesn’t work, you need to do what is best for you,” says Piyali. 

One of the many arguments put forth is that parenthood brings the couple closer. This is a reason couples going through a turbulent relationship are advised to have a child as soon as possible. This belief has been countered by many studies, including one done by the American Sociological Association which concluded parents are more likely to be depressed than their child-free counterparts, and that people without kids were happier.

Marriage is synonymous with having kids and the idea of being child-free antagonises elders. Campaigners’ advice: Use the opportunity to start a conversation, not an argument.

 

Sign of greater freedom

More and more Indian women opting to go child-free (it’s child-free by choice and not childless!) is a natural and inevitable result of increasing literacy levels and employment among women, say sociologists.

760 crore

Estimated population of the world in 2017

Growing fast

The earth took 200,000 years to get its first billion people. To hit two billion, it took just 126 years. The third billion took 30 years and the fourth 14 years. Each subsequent billion has only taken 12 years.

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City joins global no-kids campaign

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