Birth Control has a long history

By popular demand we shall continue the discussion on birth control in Uganda that we began last Sunday, January 27. Let me begin by restating that having children: how many, when and how to space them is a human right which must be exercised voluntarily. Anything done otherwise is a violation of that right.

Throughout human history, couples have controlled their reproduction behavior for various reasons on a voluntary basis or through coercion. For example, ancient Greeks kept their families small through abortion or women taking drinks that brought on violent vomiting and subsequent miscarriages. Others exercised vigorously through repeated jumping that terminated unplanned or unwanted pregnancies.

On the other hand, ancient Romans preferred large families. Even so they exercised birth control as well especially by women who married early. The first recorded use of contraceptives occurred in ancient Egypt (Reader’s Digest. How Was It Done? 1995).

Even in Uganda some couples decided and still do on their own about how many children they wish to have, when and how to space them. For example, longer periods of breast feeding coupled with prohibition of sexual relations during this period delayed pregnancy.

Uganda in the next 50 years

As we finalize preparations for Uganda’s 50th birthday anniversary as an independent nation, we need to take stock of what we have achieved as a nation and where we have fallen short in order to pave a clear, equitable and sustainable path for the next 50 years.

Most Ugandans today were born after 1970 – a period dominated by political instability, economic and social hardship – and don’t have the benefit of comparing the civilian regime of Obote I and the military regimes of Amin and Museveni. What has been written about UPC and Obote I of the 1960s found mostly in NRM documents picked and emphasized deficit areas and ignored the achievements. To a certain extent Obote, subsequent leaders and supporters are to blame for not writing their stories to provide a basis for comparison. We hope that between now and October 9, UPC leadership will arrange to fill the gap.