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PHILOSOPHY > THE MIND OF MAHATMA GANDHI > Birth Control

 

Birth Control

Function of Generation
I think it is the height of ignorance to believe that the sexual act is an independent function, necessary like sleeping or eating. The world depends for its existence on the act of generation, and as the world is the playground of God and a reflection of His glory, the act of generation should be controlled for the growth of the world. He who realizes this will control his lust at any cost, equip himself with the knowledge necessary for the physical, mental and spiritual well-being of his progeny, and give the benefit of that knowledge to posterity. (A, p. 148)


The union is meant not for pleasure, but for bringing forth progeny . and union is a crime when the desire for progeny is absent. (YI, 12-3-1925, p. 88)


Once the idea that the only and grand function of the sexual organ is generation possesses man and woman , union for any other purpose they will hold as criminal waste of the vital fluid and the consequent excitement caused to man and woman as an equally criminal waste of energy. (H, 21-3-1936, p.48)


It is dinned into one’s ears that gratification of the sex urge is a solemn obligation like the obligation of discharging debts lawfully incurred, and that not to do so would involve the penalty of intellectual decay. This sexes urge has been isolated from the desire for progeny and it is said by the protagonists of the use of contraceptives that conception is an accident to be prevented except when the parties desire to have children. I venture to suggest that this is a most dangerous doctrine to preach.

Sex urge is a fine and noble thing . There is nothing to be ashamed of in it . But it is meant only for the act of creation . Any other use of it is a sin against God and humanity. (H, 28-3-1936, p. 53)

Artistic Approach
Man is undoubtedly an artist and creator. Undoubtedly, he must have beauty and, therefore, colour. His artistic and creative nature at its best taught him to discriminate, and to know that any conglomeration of colours was no mark of beauty, not every sense of enjoyment gook in itself. His eye for art taught man to seek enjoyment in usefulness.
Thus, he learnt at an early stage of his evolution that he was to eat not for its own sake, as some of us still do but he should eat to enable him to live. At a later stage, he learnt further that there was neither beauty not joy in living for its own sake , but that he must live to serve his fellow creatures and through them his Maker.

Similarly, when he pondered over the phenomenon of the pleasurableness of sexual union, he discovered that, like every other organ of sense, this one of ge3neration had its use and abuse. and he saw that its true function, its right use, was to restrict it to generation had its use he saw was ugly, and he saw further that it was fraught with very serious consequences, as well to the individual as to the race.
(H, 4-4-1936, p. 61)

Need for Birth-control
There can be no two opinions about the necessity of birth –control. But the only method handed down from ages past is self-control or brahmacharya. It is an infallible, sovereign remedy doing good to those who practise it and medical men will earn the gratitude of mankind if , instead of devising artificial means of birth-control, they will find out the means of self-control …

Artificial methods are like putting a premium upon vice. They make man and woman reckless. And the respectability that is being given to the methods must hasten the dissolution of the restraints that public opinion puts upon one. Adoption of artificial methods must result in imbecility and nervous prostration. The remedy will be found to be worse than the disease.

It is wrong and immoral to seek to escape the consequences of one’s acts. It is good for a person who overeats to have an ache and a fast. It is bad for him to indulge his appetite and then escape the consequence by taking tonics or other medicine. It is still worse for a person to indulge in his animal passions and escape the consequences of his acts. Nature is relentless and will have full revenge for any such violation of her laws. Moral results can only be produced by moral restraints. All other restraints defeat the very purpose for which they are intended. (YI, 12-3-1925, pp.88-89)

Over-population
If it is contended that birth–control is necessary for the nation because of over-population, I dispute the proposition. It has never been proved. In my opinion, by a proper land system, better agriculture and a supplementary industry, this country is capable of supporting twice as many people as there are in it today. (YI, 2-4-1925, p. 118)


The bogey of increasing birth-rate is not a new thing. It has been often trotted out. Increase in population is not and ought not to be regarded as a calamity to be avoided. Its regulation or restriction by artificial methods is a calamity of the first grade, whether we know it or not. It is bound to degrade the race if it becomes universal, which, thank God, it is never likely to be. Pestilence, wars and famines are cursed antidotes against cursed just which is responsible for unwanted children. If we would avoid this three-fold curse, we would avoid too the curse of unwanted children by the sovereign remedy of self–control. The evil consequences of artificial methods are being seen by discerning men even now. Without, however, encroaching upon the moral domain, let me say that propagation of the race rabbit-wise must undoubtedly be stopped; but not so as to bring greater evils in its train. It should be stopped by methods which in themselves ennoble the race. In other words, it is all a matter of proper education which would embrace every department of life; and dealing with one curse will take in its orbit all the others. A way is not to be avoided because it is upward and therefore uphill. Man’s upward progress means ever-increasing difficulty, which is to be welcomed. (H, 31-3-1946, p. 66)


Man must choose either of the two courses, the upward or the downward; but as he has the brute in him he will more easily choose the down ward course than the upward , especially when the down ward course is presented to him in a beautiful garb. Man easily capitulates when sin is presented in the garb of virtue, and that is what Marie Stopes and others are doing. (H, 1-2-1935, p. 410)


I am afraid that advocates of birth-control take it for granted that indulgence in animal passion is a necessity of life and in itself a desirable thing. the solicitude shown for the fair sex is most pathetic. In my opinion, it is an insult to the fair sex to put up her case in support of birth–control by artificial methods. As it is, man has sufficiently degraded her for his lust, and artificial methods, no matter how well-meaning the advocates may be, will still further degrade her.

I urge the advocates of artificial methods to consider the consequences. Any large use of the methods is likely to result in the dissolution of the marriage bond and in free love. If man may indulge in animal passion for the sake of it, what is he to do whilst he is, say, away from his home for any length of time, or when he is engaged as a soldier in a protracted war, or when he is widowed, or when his wife is too ill to permit him the indulgence without injury to her health, notwithstanding the use of artificial methods.
(YI, 2-4-1925, p. 118)


Birth-control to me is a dismal abyss. It amounts to playing with unknown forces. Assuming that birth-control by artificial aids is justifiable under certain conditions, it seems to be utterly impracticable of application among the millions. It seems to me to be easier to induce them to practise self control than control by contraceptives.
This little globe of ours is not a toy of yesterday. It has not suffered from the weight of over-population through its age of countless millions. How can it be that the truth has suddenly dawned upon some people that it is in danger of perishing of shortage of food unless the birth-rate is checked through the use of contraceptives. (H, 14-9-1935, p. 244)

Greater Sin
It is a sin to bring forth unwanted children, but I think it is a greater sin to avoid the consequences of one’s own action. It simply unmans man. (H, 7-9-1935, p. 234)


God has blessed man with seed that has the highest potency and woman with a field richer than the richest earth to be found anywhere on this globe. Surely it is criminal folly for man to allow his most precious possession to run to waste. He must guard it with a care greater than he will bestow upon the richest pearls in his possession.
And so is a woman guilty of criminal folly who will receive the seed in her life-producing field with the deliberate intention of letting it run to waste. Both he and she will be judged guilty of misuse of the talent given to them and they will be dispossessed of what they have been given. (H, 28-3-1936, p. 53)


I suggest that it is cowardly to refuse to face the consequences of one’s acts . persons who use contraceptives will never learn the virtue of self–restraint. They will not need it. Self-indulgence with contraceptives may prevent the coming of children but will sap the vitality of both men and women-perhaps, more of men than of women. It is unmanly to refuse battle with the devil. (H, 17-4-1937, p. 84)

Social Vice
I know what havoc secret vice has played among school boys and school girls. The introduction of contraceptives under the name of science and the imprimatur of known leaders of society has intensified the complication and made the task of reformers who work for purity of social life well-nigh impossible…….. (H, 28-3-1936, p. 53)

Insult to Womanhood
I know that there are modern women who advocate these methods. But I have little doubt that the vast majority of women will reject them as inconsistent with their dignity. If man means well by her, let him exercise control over himself. It is not she who tempts. In reality, man being the aggressor is the real culprit and the tempter. (YI, 2-4-1925, p. 118)


I take it that the wisest among the protagonists of contraceptives restrict their use to married women who desire to satisfy their husband‘s sexual appetite without wanting children. I hold this desire as unnatural in the human species and its satisfaction detrimental to the spiritual progress of the human family. (H, 2-5-1936, p. 92)


I take it that the wisest among the protagonists of contraceptives restrict their use to married women who desire to satisfy their husband‘s sexual appetite without wanting children. I hold this desire as unnatural in the human species and its satisfaction detrimental to the spiritual progress of the human family. (H, 2-5-1936, p. 92)


Contraceptives are an insult to woman hood. The difference between a prostitute and a woman using contraceptives is only this that the former sells her body to several men, the latter sells it to one man. Man has no right to touch his wife so long as she does not wish to have a child, and the woman should have the will-power to resist even her own husband. (H, 5-5-1946, p. 118)


It is the philanthropic motive that no doubt impels many birth-control reformers to a whirlwind campaign in favour of the use of contraceptives. I invite them to contemplate the ruinous consequences of their misplaced philanthropy. Those whom they want to reach will never use them in any appreciable numbers. Those who ought not to use them will, without doubt, use them to the undoing of themselves and their partners. This would not matter in the least if the use of contraceptives was incontestably proved to be right physically and morally. (H, 12-9-1936, p. 244)

Abstinence
Every husband and wife can make the fixed resolve never to share the same room or the same bed at night and to avoid sexual contact except for the one purpose for which it is intended for both man and beast. the beast observes the law invariably. Man, having got the choice, has grievously erred in making wrong choice. …Both man and woman should know that abstention from satisfaction of sexual appetite results not in disease but in health and vigour, provided the mind co-operates with the body.
(YI, 27-9-1925, p. 324)

Courage to say ‘NO’
Woman should have to resist their husbands. If contraceptives are resorted to, frightful results will follow. Men and woman will be living for sex alone. They will become soft-brained, unhinged, in fact, mental and moral wrecks. (ABP, 12-1-1935)


I have felt that, during the years still left to me, if I can drive home to women’s minds the truth that they are free, we shall have no birth–control problem in India. If they will only learn to say ‘no’ to their husbands when they approach them carnally…..all will be well….The real problem is that they do not want to resist them. It boils down to education. I want woman to learn the primary right of resistance. She thinks now that she has not got it. (AA, November 1935)


I do not believe that woman is prey to sexual desire to the same extent as man. It is easier for her than for man to exercise self-restraint. (H, 2-5-1936, p. 93)

Self-control
If we begin to believe that indulgence in animal passion is necessary, harmless and sinless, we shall want to give reins to it and shall be powerless to resist it. Whereas if we educate ourselves to believe that such indulgence is harmful, sinful, unnecessary, and can be controlled , we shall discover that self-restraint is perfectly possible. (YI, 19-8-1926, p. 289)


My quarrel with the advocates of contraceptives lies in their taking it for, granted that ordinary mortals cannot exercise self-control. Some of them even go so far as to say that even if they can, they ought not to do so. To them, no matter how eminent they may be in their own spheres, I say, in all humility but with utmost confidence, that they are talking without experience of the possibilities of self-control. They have no right to limit the capacity of the human soul.

And my plea, based on positive experience, is that even as truth and ahimsa are not merely for the chosen few but for the whole of humanity, to be practiced in daily life, so exactly is self –control not merely for a few ‘Mahatmas’, but for the whole of humanity. And even as, because many people will be untruthful and violent, humanity may not lower its standard, so also, though many, even the majority, may not respond to the message of self–control, we may not lower out standard. (H, 30-5-1936, p. 126)

Sterilization
I consider it inhuman to impose sterilization law on the people. but in cases of individuals with chronic diseases, it is desirable to have them sterilized if they are agreeable to it. Sterilization is a sort of contraceptive and though I am against the use of contraceptive in case of women, I do not mind voluntary sterilization in case of man, since hi is the aggressor. (ABP, 12-1-1935)