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Demographic crisis in Russia: Then they should give birth more

Demographic problem? The Kremlin and the church know the answer to this: 20-year-old women should have their first child instead of studying.

President Putin with children.

President Putin with children of the youth army on People’s Unity Day on November 4th Photo: Gavriil Grigorov/Sputnik/Pool/ap

MOSCOW taz | “Let’s be honest,” Lenara Ivanova, the family minister of the Russian region of Bashkortostan, says into the camera, “high-quality children are available when a woman gives birth to them at the age of 20. Children who are born later are rejects.” The moderator doesn’t lose the microphone at that moment, he simply continues with his questions.

Meanwhile, Ivanova reports a few days after her appearance in the YouTube program “Aspects – Bashkortostan” speaks out again, complains about “too many angry comments” because of her statements. She just “made a promise,” she says.

However, after her half-hearted apology, she continues to stick to the content of these statements: Russia’s women should give birth prematurely and the state must make this palatable to them with all sorts of measures. But not with social care, with measures that guarantee a secure future instead of turning men into cannon fodder in a war, but with a number of bans.

The Minister of Health Mikhail Muraschko speaks of an “entrenched reprehensible practice” that a woman should first get an education and create a financial basis in order to then have a child. No, he says, girls have to be told at school that they should give birth first and then think about getting an education.

The role of women is debated everywhere

The debate about giving birth, when to have children, abortion bans and ultimately the role of women in society is currently being held on every Russian talk show and also in the Kremlin.

In the first half of this year, the birth rate fell by 29 percent compared to last year

Russian President Vladimir Putin has always complained about the country’s demographics, which are in fact bad. In the first half of this year, the birth rate fell by 29 percent compared to last year. Russian women have an average of 1.6 children; in Germany the birth rate is 1.4 children per woman. The Russian Social Fund predicted in October that the birth rate would fall by another 5.8 percent this year to just under one million deliveries. This would result in a value like in the early 1990s, a value deeper than ever in recent years.

The country’s conservatives as well as representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church know exactly why this is and are outdoing each other with their proposals: abortions should be banned, young women should give birth to children before training or studying – and they should finally be aware of their “childbearing function” again as the senator of the Chelyabinsk region, Margarita Pavlova, put it. If the first child is born at the age of 20, a woman can easily give birth to up to five children. Pavlova doesn’t say who will look after her and from what.

No abortion after rape

Even after a rape, priest Filipp Ilyashenko explains on Russian state television, a child must be born. “What can the child do for the way it is conceived?” The Supreme Patriarch Kirill even wants to “increase the Russian population with a magic wand”: bring women from one abortion he claims, the population statistics would immediately increase. That’s why there needs to be a nationwide ban on abortion.

This already exists in two regions, and in other regions some private clinics “voluntarily” forego such operations. Starting next year, the sale of abortion drugs will also be restricted. “The war is the reason for the falling birth rate, as well as poverty, alcoholism, diseases,” says Alyona Popova, who campaigns for women’s rights in Russia. “The state is relying on populism to distract from the real problems and has therefore taken the issue of abortion out of the mothballs.”

The “abortion epidemic” that the country’s conservatives talk about does not actually exist in Russia. According to Russia’s state statistics agency, the numbers are falling by 6 percent annually and this year are the lowest they have been since 1991.

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