Palau Debates Banning Contraceptives to Stimulate Population Growth

Palau Debates Banning Contraceptives to Stimulate Population Growth

Palau is currently wrangling with a controversial bill that would ban the sale and distribution of contraceptives. The Population Growth Act is intended to stimulate population growth in the country, and has already been passed by the Senate on first reading.

According to the Asian Development Bank, Palau's population growth is just under 1.5%-the smallest in the region. This has raised concerns among officials, especially because young Palauans are increasingly moving overseas to pursue education and work opportunities. Senator Alfonso Diaz explained: "We're hoping when we outlaw [contraceptives] that people will be freely having sex and then reproduce."

Many have pointed out that banning contraceptives would likely increase the prevalence of HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases. Senator Hokkons Baules, the author of the bill, responded: "Right now we don't have a problem of HIV in Palau, and the problem of transmitted disease in Palau is very minimal, not even 50 people. It's even less than that."

Health Minister Stevenson Kuartei said: "I wish we could have been consulted about the long-term effects that such a bill would entail, but we were never asked." He added: "The discussion of [STDs], the discussion of well-planned family planning, the issue of choice by families or by women to manage their pregnancy, the issue of HIV and AIDS-those were not even addressed within the proposed bill."

The bill, which would impose a $500 fine or a three-month prison sentence on violators, is to be debated by the Senate in January.