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Pro-Natalism in Crisis-Ridden Eastern Europe Entraps Young Women

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Written by Masum Momaya for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the  original post.

Cross-posted with permission from the Association for Women's Rights in Development (AWID).

As another June 12 th – Russia’s “National Day” – passed in Moscow, the Kremlin calculated how successful its efforts have been to encourage Russia’s women to have more babies. Worried about declining population numbers, the Russian government has introduced a host of measures designed to encourage procreation.

Incentives include a dedicated ‘day of copulation’ that releases citizens from work for one afternoon to have sex; an all-expense-paid summer camp for young adults complete with private tents - and no condoms - and cars and cash payments for parents with newborns.

Fears of declining birth rates and population numbers are rampant not only in Russia but throughout Eastern Europe,[1] spurring interventions and bolstering anti-reproductive rights and nationalist campaigns by right-wing forces, who lament that that women are not fulfilling their responsibilities as child-bearers and that “native stock” are disappearing.

Right-wing forces have been gaining sway in the two decades since the fall of communist regimes in much of Eastern Europe and the former Soviet republics. Anti-reproductive rights rhetoric from these groups has been given extra backing by the interrelated currents of the 20-year-and-counting economic crisis, mass emigration for study and work, growing xenophobia, and falling birth rates, whose decline pre-dates the fall of communism.

As these currents collide, the cultural and social directive for young women – as long as they are not members of poor, ethnic minority or immigrant communities - is “to have more babies.” Such directives, though, entrap young women, who find their choices limited and their rights violated amidst persistent patriarchy, racism and xenophobia.

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