JULY 12 ― “Who asked them to have so many children?”
More often than not, that is a common reaction to any tale of struggling families who just happen to have more children than the norm.
In a past job, I had colleagues who joked that a certain race had more children than most because they “had nothing else to do in their spare time.”
“No TV, no books, too poor so they have babies-lah!”
The problem here is these people sneering at those with “too many” children are not just Malaysian, but everywhere.
This notion that poor, stupid people “did it to themselves” by choosing to have more children than they had income to support is a common one. I've heard it from Malays. From Chinese. From Indians. White people.
Don't want to be poor? Shut your legs.
Oh, privilege. How dost thou create people of hard hearts and weak eyesight.
We have to remember there was a time when people had as many kids as they could to survive. More children meant more labour, meant more of a chance that there would be children who would survive to adulthood.
Times have changed. Yet the thinking behind having many children has not. Yes, we see lower-income families with a lot of kids here and we see that in the Philippines as well. What do we have in common? Religious interference in the matter of sex education and birth control.
I've had friends try and get prescriptions for birth control only to be told they were too young or that they would be better off not being on it, so it would be easier to get pregnant after marriage.
In Malaysia, women are encouraged to submit to their husband's sexual desires but men are never told to consider whether they can support the product of said desires.
Culture, religion and the perception of sex education as being a taboo all come together to create situations where people have more children than they have the resources to cope with.
Which means, someone with money will whine about why these “stupid people” burden the “smarter people.”
Rather than complain, I wish these people would wag their tongues at the ones who deserve some noise: the Education Ministry. Teach kids the merits of family planning, instead of leaving it all up to fate.
We leave too much to fate. We ask too much of the divine. But it's not too much to ask for people to remember that too many children is not quite as bad as too many judgmental people.
* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.