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Religion, minority status and reproductive behavior among Muslims and Hindus in India and Bangladesh

16 December 2010

PhD ceremony: Ms. D. Sahu, 11.00 uur, Academiegebouw, Broerstraat 5, Groningen

Title: Religion, minority status and reproductive behavior among Muslims and Hindus in India and Bangladesh

Promotor(s): prof. I. Hutter, prof. L.J.G. van Wissen

Faculty: Spatial Sciences


Lately, fertility of Muslims has garnered academic and political attention. This attention on Muslim fertility emanates from the interpretation of Islamic principles which are believed to be averse to the use of fertility control, specifically by restricting the use of sterilisation and induced abortion. The tag of Islam pro-natalism has received political connotation in societies where Muslims register higher fertility because some interpret it as a conspiracy meant to outnumber other religious communities. This impression of Muslims as pro-natalists is contested by scholars who argue that it is not possible to assign Muslims a single coherent fertility pattern across countries. However, in countries such as India and Thailand, Muslims who are the religious minority exhibit higher fertility than the religious majority community.

Biswamitra Sahu sought to explore the role of religion, minority status and agency in reproductive behaviour among Muslims and Hindus in India and Bangladesh. Muslims are the largest religious minority in India (13.4 percent) and the religious majority in Bangladesh (87.8 percent). By comparison, Hindus are the religious majority in India (80.5 percent) and the largest religious minority in Bangladesh (9.3 percent). This unique Hindu-Muslim composition of India and Bangladesh provides a potent research setting to examine the role of religion as well as minority status in explaining fertility differentials of the two religious groups in India and Bangladesh.

In summary, the empirical findings of the study prove that the generalisation regarding pro-natality of Muslim fertility is often exaggerated. Religion does play an important role in reproductive behaviour of its adherents; however, the influence and ramification of religion is often contextually determined (e.g. majority or minority status, socio-economic status etc). To sum up, irrespective of religion, if a conducive atmosphere is provided, people plan their reproductive behaviour in the best interest of their family. The study concludes that with regard to reproduction, people prioritise quality (education, standard of living) of a child’s upbringing over quantity.

Last modified:15 September 2017 3.40 p.m.
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