Forced motherhood

Other Names:
Imposed pregnancy
State-imposed functional breeding of humans
Government-enforced maternity

In order to remedy perceived deficiencies in national population, governments may institute measures obliging women to have children against their will.


While a larger number of countries consider their national fertility level high and would like to reduce it, a number of other countries consider higher rates of fertility desirable. For instance, in the United Nations Fifth Population Inquiry conducted in 1982, 46.7% of the developed countries responding indicated that higher rates of fertility were desirable and the remaining 53.3% of the countries responding indicated that their fertility level was considered satisfactory. In some countries experiencing a decline in their birth rate, governments are furthering policies to increase it, sometimes even to the extent of enforcing motherhood.

The classic example is that of Nazi Germany where women conforming to the preferred Aryan stereotype were encouraged or obliged to have as many children as possible, whether with their husbands or with partners chosen for them. A childless woman was labelled a disgrace, an outcast or even a traitor. Soldiers on leave were exhorted to find women and breed children. In the USSR under communism, it was unofficially estimated that in 1964, 41% of the women over 21 years were unmarried, and that as a consequence the country was underpopulated. In response it was agreed to encourage women, especially unmarried women, to have children and to hand them over to state-run institutions where they would remain until university age.

In Romania under Ceausescu, when it was discovered that out of 743,000 registered pregnancies only 40% resulted in live births, mainly because of abortions, women were obliged to submit to monthly gynaecological examinations to encourage them to become pregnant and to ensure that pregnancies were not illegally terminated. Use of contraceptives was forbidden. The target was four children per healthy female. Women who failed to produce the required number of children were subject to economic sanctions. The consequences were a significant increase in the number of illegal abortions, and unwanted and abandoned children, some of whom were handed over to state-run orphanages, following the policy originally developed in the USSR. It is estimated that only 5% of the women of child bearing age have a completely healthy uterus.

Related UN Sustainable Development Goals:
GOAL 1: No PovertyGOAL 3: Good Health and Well-beingGOAL 5: Gender Equality
Problem Type:
E: Emanations of other problems
Date of last update
22.10.2019 – 20:40 CEST