Iran secured the support of religious leaders for population initiatives and managed to reduce its growth rate from 3.2 percent to 1.4 percent in just eight years. The late religious leader, Imam Ayatollah Khomeini, laid down four conditions for accepting population programmes: that drugs such as birth control pills do not have side effects; that both men and women should accept birth control, if it is to be used; that only men should deal with men and women with women; and that the contraception methods used, including sterilization, be reversible. When health officials demonstrated that all this was possible, Iran's powerful religious leaders accepted population programmes. However the term "population control" was considered unacceptable and replaced by "health programmes".
Principally religious leaders agree with population control, but the way they do it depends on the way and the culture of the people. Confronting top church authorities is of little use. The middle and lower ranks in the faith can be used as partners. When you get down to the grass roots, you find doctors and others who support family planning.
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