Population, Control, and Planning the Family in 1960's India
Population growth in India was characterized by as an impending emergency: a bomb, a crisis, or a Malthusian disaster. The concern over overpopulation in the 1960’s, driven by intersecting anti-Communist, eugenicist, development, and feminist ideologies, found support both in international organizations such as the United Nations and Ford Foundation and in the Indira Gandhi administration. These concerns, which coalesced under the divided banner of “Family Planning,” justified new forms of intervention into family structure, especially among rural and remote populations. Family planning professionals sought to raise the average age of marriage and deconstruct the joint family, engaging the language of feminist emancipation as one of many tools to limit births. Through the knowledge created in demographic and “Knowledge-Attitudes-Practice” studies in India, the failed policy attempts to legislate interventions into family structure, and popular response to policy attempts and propaganda, this paper seeks to clarify the conception of a modernized family developed in this time. The tension of emphasizing individual choices while also promoting one ideal form of reproduction ultimately led family planning professionals and feminists alike to valorize domesticity, reworking but never challenging women’s roles as caregivers.