Tanzania’s president has urged women to stop taking birth control and argued they only use contraceptives because they are too “lazy” to feed a family.
John Magufuli – who has drawn criticism from legislators and women’s rights groups for his remarks – told a rally that outsiders who promote birth control are issuing bad advice.
“Those going for family planning are lazy … they are afraid they will not be able to feed their children,” he said in Meatu District in the Simiyu Region on Sunday.
“They do not want to work hard to feed a large family and that is why they opt for birth controls and end up with one or two children only.”
The 58-year-old, who has two children, said “women can now give up contraceptive methods” and it was “important to reproduce”.
“I have travelled to Europe and elsewhere and have seen the harmful effects of birth control. Some countries are now facing declining population growth. They are short on manpower,” he was quoted as saying by The Citizen.
“You have cattle. You are big farmers. You can feed your children. Why then resort to birth control?” he asked. “This is my opinion, I see no reason to control births in Tanzania”.
Tanzania, a country in eastern Africa, has a population of around 53 million people. Forty-nine per cent live on less than $2 (£1.50) a day.
On average, a woman in Tanzania has more than five children, which is among the highest rates in the world.
On Monday, MPs criticised the president’s remarks and said they are not in line with national policy, according to local media.
Cecil Mwambe, an MP, said the country’s health insurance system was only able to accommodate a maximum of four children from one family.
Mr Magufuli’s speech was fiercely criticised by social media users who argued women have the right to autonomy over their own bodies and choose a method of contraception.
Tanzania has ratified the Maputo Protocol – an African charter of women’s rights which states women have the right to control their fertility and chose any method of contraception.
Nevertheless, access to services is said to be limited in the country. According to the UN population fund, UNFPA, a third of women in Tanzania use family planning, with access most limited in rural areas.
Mr Magufuli – who has proposed several controversial policies since he was elected in 2015 – made similar remarks in 2016.
After the launch of free primary and secondary education, he said: “Women can now throw away their contraceptives. Education is now free.”
Last year he suggested pregnant schoolgirls be barred from carrying on their education after giving birth.
In a separate incident, Tanzania’s parliament on Monday banned female legislators from wearing artificial nails and false eyelashes.
Job Ndugai said women wearing either of those items would not be permitted to enter parliament, after a health official said they could give rise to health problems, according to The Citizen.