President John Magufuli has advised Tanzanian couples to stop using contraceptive methods, saying that the country needs more people, according to local media reports.
“Those going for family planning are lazy … they are afraid they will not be able to feed their children. They do not want to work hard to feed a large family and that is why they opt for birth controls and end up with one or two children only,” he said at a public rally in Meatu on Sunday.
Magufuli, who has two children, said it was “important to reproduce” and warned Tanzanians against what he said was bad advice provided by outsiders.
“I have travelled to Europe and elsewhere and have seen the harmful effects of birth control. Some countries are now facing declining population growth. They are short on manpower,” he was quoted as saying by The Citizen publication.
“You have cattle. You are big farmers. You can feed your children. Why then resort to birth control?” he asked. “This is my opinion, I see no reason to control births in Tanzania“.
Legislators on Monday criticised the comments, according to local media, saying they are not consistent with national policy.
Cecil Mwambe, an MP, said the country’s health insurance scheme can only accommodate a maximum of four children from one family.
Speaker of Parliament Job Ndugai meanwhile said the president’s comments were advisory and did not represent a governmental position, regional media reported.
Social media users also reacted angrily to Magufuli’s speech, with many pointing out that womens’ right to choose any method of contraception and have access to family planning information is enshrined in the Maputo Protocol, an African charter women’s rights.
Tanzania is home to some 55.5 million people, according to the World Bank, up from 10 million when it gained independence in 1961.
The United Nations has predicted that Africa’s population will double to around 2.5 billion people by 2050.
Magufuli’s speech mirrors one given by Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni on Sunday, when he told journalists he had rejected the advice of “outsiders” who warned against population growth.
“What superior intelligence do you have to think that you can understand the problem in my house better than we the occupants?,” said Museveni. “If there is a problem in our house, we the occupants will solve it. Keep out”.
Separately, Tanzania’s parliament on Monday banned female legislators from wearing artificial nails and false eyelashes.
Ndugai, who made the announcement, said women wearing either item would not be allowed to enter parliament, after a health official told the House that they could cause health problems, according to The Citizen.