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A growing tribe of ‘child-free’ proponents believes children shouldn’t be made to suffer life, and that this is the best way to ease the strain on Earth.

New Delhi: Mumbai resident Raphael Samuel, 27, plans to take his parents to court for giving birth to him without his consent.

“I want to tell all Indian kids that they don’t owe their parents anything,” he told ThePrint. “I love my parents, and we have a great relationship, but they had me for their joy and their pleasure. My life has been amazing, but I don’t see why I should put another life through the rigamarole of school and finding a career, especially when they didn’t ask to exist.”

There is a term for the belief Samuel holds — anti-natalism.

Dramatic as it sounds, anti-natalists like Samuel don’t have a negative disposition towards children or life, but simply believe life which has not given its consent to live should not be brought into the world. In other words, if a child has not agreed to be born — and thus to be subject to life’s difficulties — one doesn’t have the right to give birth to it.

“Other Indian people must know that it is an option not to have children, and to ask your parents for an explanation as to why they gave birth to you,” Samuel said.

Voluntary Human Extinction Movement

Samuel is part of a growing tribe of ‘child-free’ proponents — who sometimes also call themselves Voluntary Human Extinction Movement (VHEM) activists and ‘efilists’ — who believe children should not be brought into the world.

Although small in number, the movement (nicknamed ‘Stop Making Babies’ until it decides on an official name) has big dreams: To set up a national-level organisation that works on spreading awareness about child-free living.

At the forefront of the movement is Pratima Naik, an engineering graduate based in Bengaluru. Like Samuel, Naik is young (28) and committed to never having children.

“This is a completely voluntary, non-violent movement,” Naik said. “We don’t want to impose our beliefs on anyone, but more people need to consider why having a child in the world right now isn’t right.”

Naik said there are plenty of reasons to join — from not succumbing to societal pressure to reproduce to easing the strain on Earth’s resources. Plus there are plenty of children in need of adoption.

Child-free advocates have set up their own social media pages, some of which have gained traction. Samuel’s anti-natalist page is followed by nearly 400 people. Naik’s, called ‘Childfree India’ has nearly 100. Several others like ‘Childfree by Choice INDIA’ and ‘Childfree by Choice’ also have a following that page owners say is picking up.

In truth, young, urban Indians have been choosing not to have children for some years now, despite the stigma attached to it. But India’s emerging child-free movement seeks to ease the burden of that choice on individuals and couples by providing solidarity and support, while also advocating the end of procreation to “save the Earth”.

The gathering will hold its first national meet on 10 February in Bengaluru, where it will decide what shape the movement will take.


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A burden on Earth

“Everyone is aware of how much we suffer in life,” said Alok Kumar, 34, another anti-natalist who runs a YouTube channel spreading awareness on child-free living, among other ‘taboo’ subjects. He has a following of over 1,500 people, most of whom seem appreciative of the content being broadcast.

“I thought about whether our world was a conducive place for bringing children up, and I decided it would be better not to have a child.”

Kumar’s decision didn’t come at a cost. When he approached ‘marriageable’ age, his parents were outraged to know he wanted to marry a woman who would agree not to have children. They began looking for a partner for him nonetheless.

“Many of the women I met actually agreed with me (on being child-free),” said Kumar. “But they kept silent. Either they were too afraid to tell the truth, or they wanted to please their own parents.”

When the search proved futile, he experimented on a matchmaking app, and met his wife Shweta (39), a wheelchair user and also a child-free proponent. Kumar’s decision to stay child-free, compounded by his choice to marry a person with disability, was enough reason for his parents to disown him.

Child-free living is a difficult pill for most people to swallow, especially because procreation is considered the next natural step after marriage.

“Once she’s married, a woman is expected to prove her fertility and keep producing children till a boy is born,” said Alok Vajpeyi, head of knowledge management at the Population Foundation of India.

“The problem is families continue having children without considering the negative consequences of having a child without planning.”

For VHEM activists, the direst consequence has been environmental degradation. Remaining childless so the Earth’s biosphere can restore itself has inspired a maxim by which most VHEM activists live: “May we live long and die out.”

It is difficult to deny the effects of overpopulation on the environment, which is among the biggest reasons why global warming has increased so rapidly over recent years. India’s population is bursting at 1.3 billion, with each person carrying an average carbon footprint of about 1.8-2 metric tonnes per year.

“The problem lies in the distribution of the carbon footprint in India,” said Dr Chandra Bhushan, director of the Centre for Science and Environment.

“For the bottom 50 per cent of the population, their carbon footprint is less than half a tonne. Meanwhile, the carbon footprint for the top 10 per cent is about 6 tonnes”.

The child-free movement taking shape in India consists mostly of highly educated, upper or middle-class people, the kind who do not belong in the bottom 50 per cent. For this reason, people like Akash Varia (41) believe that not having a child is the best way to reduce their impact on the environment.

“Due to over-population, we have more consumers of natural resources, and we are destroying nature for our self-interests. Science, technology and money are not helping in keeping these resources alive. I want to reduce my carbon footprint and do my best to improve the quality of life,” Varia said.

A 2009 study said that the “carbon legacy” of having just one child can produce 20 times more greenhouse gas than a person would save by driving a high-mileage car, recycling, using energy-efficient appliances and light bulbs, etc. A more recent study found that, at least in developed nations, having one fewer child is the most impactful way to reduce one’s carbon footprint, leading to a reduction of approximately 58 tonnes of CO2 for each year of a parent’s life.

Whose choice is it anyway?

While both Vajpeyi and Bhushan are sceptical that a movement like this is necessary, given fertility rates are on the decline in India as well as the rest of the world, both agree that the right to education and choice is central to population control.

The ‘Stop Making Babies’ group, which has traveled across the country, intends to make the option to say no to children more visible in a country that is shrouded in pro-natalist culture. Members of the movement have often been criticised for being “selfish”, “vain”, and outright “crazy” for their choices and advocacy.

Priya Kurian (28), a professor of psychology from Bengaluru, who would someday like to have children, says “to depend on an unborn child’s reasoning on whether or not they want to be a part of this world is futile”.

“By that logic, if we just leave children to their choices, they could consent to something life-threatening, and if we let it be, then our infant mortality rate would be something else altogether,” Kurian said.

However, to staunch anti-natalists like Kumar, the question of danger and harm doesn’t arise if the child doesn’t exist, nor does the prospect of suicide.

“I don’t regret or feel wronged for having been born,” he said. “But I cannot assume the same for my child.”

‘Say what you feel’

Naik admits that a lot of questions need to be answered before ‘Stop Making Babies’ evolves into a formal platform: Where will the organisation stand on suicide, assisted or otherwise? Or abortion? Or capital punishment?

Because procreation and childbirth form the very basis of our lives, the possibilities of a movement, though minuscule in impact, are many.

In some ways, what the movement seeks to do is truly radical. Procreation, childbirth, and motherhood have been worldwide norms for millenia now. In India, motherhood undergirds just about everything, from basic familial structures to state rhetoric. By calling for the end of procreation, the movement questions these norms. It still, however, has light years to go before achieving a more substantial reach, especially among more rural populations.

“People have changed,” Naik said. Although still uncomfortable, more people are receptive to the idea of child-free living. “We’re just asking them to go one step further and not be afraid of saying how they feel out loud.”


Also read: The survival rate of a baby girl in India falls when gold prices go up


 

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18 COMMENTS

  1. Ah, if only we could skip having babies and the ordeals with all those unproductive and stressful years of training! Yes, the world should stop having babies and wait until AI (artificial intelligence) can create fully formed and informed adults with the ability to determine that they are ready, willing and able to join society. Oh, wait, that would require Godhood status… I guess it will never happen, so deal with it!

  2. The author of the article has seriously misinterpreted and thus misrepresented what they alleged to be ^data^ on “declining fertility rate”. Yes, women nowadays give less births than women in the 1960s. Yet there is an existential part of the statistics being conveniently ignored, which is the fact that this planet now has far more fertile women than then.

    And doesn’t life suck when you were born from poor parents? I am humbly asking as a person having experienced firsthand what hunger-induced hypoglycemia is!!! Why don’t the writer of the article, instead of putting up the picture of a happy, apparently-rich-born, fat, and smiling baby, choose to display hunger-stricken, dirty, apparently-stunted children begging on the streets?

    This reporting is obviously biased toward directing readers to unfairly hate the anti-natalists. Good to know that not everyone is buying it! We Indians are not all stupid and steerable like those FoxNews-tuning Trumpeteers.

    Overpopulation leads to poverty (and reduced living standards, whereas capitalism can keep paying very cheap for the abundantly-available low-educated and unskilled labors), criminality (including but not limited to terrorism since it is easier to militate people who are economically discontented with their lives), pollution (and reduced environmental standards, like the need of mass production of non-degradable plastics) and deforestation (which exacerbates pollution and poverty in numerous ways and levels).

    Dear fellow anti-natalists, here are what you can help promote and disseminate in our campaign to save this planet from baby-sh*tters, and sadly to save humanity from it baby-greedy self…

    “Don’t expect rich people to help feed and educate your children when you never consulted them before having the babies.”

    “1 child per family is enough. Don’t point finger to other people to save the planet from overpopulation when yourself is not willing to contribute.”

    “It takes emotional maturity to marry, but it takes financial stability to parent. Love your child by preparing their educational future before having them in your life.”

    “An ultimate proof of selflessness and unconditional love is when you choose to adopt less fortunate children instead of having children of your own.”

    Religions will never agree with any attempt of birth-controlling because their deities can never have enough worshipers. And their teaching that humans should keep making babies until the earth is full of them while letting God alone “worry on how to feed those mouths”, is sarcastically true, because eventually, all we can possibly eat, is each other, literally:-)

    • Why bring Trump into an issue in India that he has nothing to do with? What exactly has he done to you or your country that makes you hate him? While I agree with most of what you said, bringing Trump or his supporters into the conversation really blew it.

      • Everyone in all parts of the world should hate Trump for what he means to humanity – regardless of “what he has done to you”.

  3. I think that this way of thinking is muddled and totally non- rational .It seems to confuse
    Concepts of other issues that need consideration and solutions that are appropriate to
    resolve them. .Maybe ,some proper thinking needs to be done to address the issues that have
    been highlighted .

  4. You should also not use an actual child’s photo with a red circle and cross line. Really bad decision there.

  5. This entire concept is based on some puny nonsensical idea in some puny nonsensical person’s brain. It is IMPOSSIBLE to ask for consent from a bunch of cells. “Hey sperm, would you like to fuse with this egg?”, “Hey egg, would you like to fuse with this sperm?”. Yes, people have children out of their own wish and consent. People consent to have sex, to not have sex, to have children, to not have children, to live on their own, to live with their parents. People consent to decisions. People make decisions. Consent is for fully developed brains. NOT CELLS. How does something like this even get published, with the reporter making statements like “what the movement seeks to do is truly radical.” I hope this guy goes to court and they throw his file on his face. Also, you should probably not use an actual child’s photo with a red circle and cross line across. Really bad decision there.

  6. This entire concept is based on some puny nonsensical idea in some puny nonsensical person’s brain. It is IMPOSSIBLE to ask for consent from a bunch of cells. “Hey sperm, would you like to fuse with this egg?”, “Hey egg, would you like to fuse with this sperm?”. Yes, people have children out of their own wish and consent. People consent to have sex, to not have sex, to have children, to not have children, to live on their own, to live with their parents. People consent to decisions. People make decisions. Consent is for fully developed brains. NOT CELLS. How does something like this even get published, with the reporter making statements like “what the movement seeks to do is truly radical.” I hope this guy goes to court and they throw his file on his face.

  7. Utter Nonsense.. This fellow who is planning to go to the court for not having his consent before he was born seems mentally ill and he must be heavily penalized by the court for making such bizarre case and for wasting the court time. This is a piece of shit. I suggest THE PRINT not to publish this kind of nonsense.

  8. This movement is entirely new concept in our society/country & of course like any other change it will take time to get accepted. The idea of asking the consent of child as 2 whether it wants 2 get born or not b4 it’s birth is really brutally foolish & funny. But at the same time this movement/idea really makes sense bcos after birth every human being has 2 go thru challenges, insults, boredom, loneliness, pains, diseases, accidents which can b avoided if that human being is not born. Also fertility rate of country will also come down leading 2 slow growth of population which in turn lead 2 less pressure on natural resources, less crowded cities, less need for deforestation, less need for employment etc.

  9. So… would these selfish fools also be willing to give up their rights to be cared for by the next generation? You gave nothing, so why ask for anything? Imagine if all of us were selfish, there would be no next generation.

  10. I am not sure why Print is giving such news a coverage . How can any baby who has not borne can give his/her consent ? Just to grab a “FARZEE PRACHAR” this guy is filing a case and Print is providing it’s platform for this. no one should force anyone to have kids. But taking these matters to court is a non sense.

  11. I totally agree with this philosophy of stop making babies. We do not live in a world which is conducive to bringing up children… things are getting bad to worse. Population needs to be controlled it’s high time now. The population explosion combined with poverty is giving rise to different kinds of crime.

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