Iran’s billboard guide to family planning teaches ‘the more, the merrier’
New billboards in Tehran encouraging families to have more children have been criticized as sexist and dismissive of the serious economic issues Iranians face.
About 47 years ago, the motto “Fewer children, better life” penetrated deep into Iranians’ homes and affected reproduction norms in the quest for a more comfortable lifestyle. The slogan was a major effort by the Pahlavi administration to curb population growth, a campaign to persuade families to have fewer children.
Last year, Iran’s supreme leader presented an extremely different and updated approach to people’s private lives, encouraging them to produce more children and adding that the Iranian population should move toward at least 150 million people (almost double that of today).
Over the past year, the government and nongovernmental organizations have attempted to spread Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s words discouraging people from using contraception.
During the early years following the 1979 revolution, the newly founded Islamic Republic of Iran tried its best to persuade people to produce more children. Soon after the conclusion of the eight-year Iran-Iraq war, the administration commenced organized efforts to dissuade couples from reproduction and basically emphasized the same exact message that the previous government had been so adamant to spread.
“A single blossom is not spring.”
Early in December, a billboard with this slogan began to pop up along major highways along with others encouraging families to have more children. Other billboards saying, “More children, better lives” depicted a large family bicycling happily on a single bicycle, with a father and son not so happily trailing behind. There was one notable exception on both bicycles. The mother was missing.
In an interview with Fars, Ehsan Mohammad Hassani, executive director of the Owj media production company behind the billboards, responded to questions and criticism about the illustration appearing on newly installed billboards in the capital. When asked why there is no mother shown in the picture of a happy family pedaling a tandem bike, he answered, “Out of concern for appearing to promote cycling for women, we decided to exclude the family’s mother from the picture.”
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