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Jakarta Post

Indonesia exports religious take on family planning

  • Ivany Atina Arbi

    The Jakarta Post

Bali   /   Wed, September 19, 2018   /   10:33 am
Indonesia exports religious take on family planning Illustration of a pregnant couple. (Shutterstock/File)

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), in collaboration with the National Population and Family Planning Board (BKKBN), is promoting Indonesia’s approach of incorporating religious leaders in family planning campaigns abroad, describing the approach as effective in increasing the use of contraception.

Annette Sachs Robertson, a UNFPA Indonesia representative, said on Tuesday that Islamic leaders in other countries often perceived family planning and the use of contraception as unacceptable for Muslims, unlike many Indonesian religious leaders who believe family planning is part of Islamic teaching.

Robertson said religious leaders in Indonesia have also taken part in promoting maternal and infant health.

“[They told Muslim adherents] to not have children if they are too young or too old [to bear children],” she said. “And they also told people not to have children to soon or too many.”

The UNFPA, in collaboration with the BKKBN, has been inviting since 2013 religious leaders from at least 20 African and Asian countries — particularly those with a large Muslim population — to Indonesia to learn about family planning from Muslim leaders.

Among the countries are Afghanistan, Niger and Nigeria — of which the contraceptive prevalence rates stood at 25, 16 and 21 percent respectively in 2017.

“Some [of the 20] countries even requested our staff, BKKBN staff and some experts to visit their countries and hold training sessions for their Muslim leaders,” Robertson said.

The latest training session was set up in Mindanao, home to the majority of Muslims in the Catholic-majority Philippines, earlier this year.

UNFPA Indonesia program officer for advocacy Samidjo said Mindanao was “doing what Indonesia does in carrying out a family planning program”.

For example, Indonesia has a premarriage counseling program where engaged couples receive education on health and reproduction, as well as the family planning program, while Mindanao has a post-marriage counseling program.

“Why post-marriage [counselling]? Because in Mindanao, it is prohibited for Muslim couples to meet before they are officially married,” Samidjo said, adding that the counseling program was organized by the countries’ religious bodies, with the Indonesian body being the Religious Affairs Office.

Both Robertson and Samidjo were speaking to The Jakarta Post on the sidelines of the inter-ministerial conference on South-South and Triangular Cooperation (SSTC), which is taking place in Bali from Tuesday to Thursday.

Indonesia and the Philippines have collaborated on Mindanao’s family planning program since 2013, leading to an increase in the contraceptive prevalence rate (CPR) in Mindanao.

The CPR in Mindanao increased to 40 percent in 2017 from 30 percent in 2013, yet it is far below Indonesia’s 63.6 percent.

Indonesia and the Philippines are set to sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on the exchange of religious leaders to help promote the family planning program in Mindanao on the last day of the SSTC meeting. The agreement will aim at extending a similar five-year pact, which will expire soon.

The BKKBN claimed success in increasing Indonesia’s CPR from 61.9 percent in 2012 to 63.6 percent in 2017.

Prior to 2012, the country had made little progress, with rising conservatism frequently blamed for undermining efforts to increase the CPR, which only increased by 2 percent from 60 percent between 2002 
and 2012.

The SSTC meeting, attended by at least 250 officials from 45 member states, is expected to address population and development challenges in developing countries, grouped together as the Global South.