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The Choice to Be Born: An anti-natalist view of procreation

The Choice to Be Born: An anti-natalist view of procreation

By Chinnamma K C

Recently, a video showing a 27-year-old anti-natalist from Mumbai, Raphael Samuel, went viral. Samuel claimed that he was going to sue his parents for bringing him into this world without his consent.[1] Anti-natalism is a philosophical opposition to procreation. It imputes a negative value to birth. Though, this philosophy is not a popular one it has had its fair share of followers in the West. With a group called ‘Voluntary Human Extinction Movement’ planning to organise a protest called ‘Stop Making Babies’ on February 10th in Bengaluru, the anti-natalist movement has caught the attention of the country. Anti-natalists believe that giving birth to a child is morally bad. Bringing a life into this world, fully aware of all the suffering that the person must go through in his life, is immoral according to the anti-natalism philosophy.[2]

These anti-natalist ideas are not new. Many philosophers like Homer, Sophocles, Arthur Schopenhauer and Peter Wessel Zapffe have expressed anti-natalist tendencies in their ideas. David Benatar, a philosophy professor from South Africa, is an exponent of the modern anti-natalism philosophy. In his book Better Never to Have Been: The Harm of Coming Into Existence , he argues that life is ‘pointless, avoidable suffering’. He is of the opinion that stopping people from having children is the only way to make sure that people on this earth don’t suffer. Anti-natalists believe that reproduction and parenting are falsely glamourized.[3]  

There is another aspect to this anti-natalism philosophy that is environment friendly. Throughout history as civilisations have grown, they have caused destruction of the environment. This philosophy shows concern for animals and the environment. Overpopulation is one of the challenges that our country is facing today. Overpopulation depletes earth’s resources. Though the anti-natalism philosophy might strike people as being extreme and nihilistic, it cannot be denied that they have a point.

Another aspect of the anti-natalism philosophy is going against the societal norms which glorify procreation and parenthood. These days we see more and more young couples choosing not to have children.[4] While some people respect their choice, there are some who see their decision as selfishness and immaturity. While some people consider procreation as a biological need, our society sees procreation as a religious, social and familial obligation. It cannot be denied that this is one of the causes of overpopulation in our country. Modern anti-natalists believe that adopting a child is better than giving birth to one. They argue that rather than bringing an innocent soul into this world of suffering it is better to bestow our parental affection and care on an orphaned child.

In the Indian society where marriage and procreation are considered an integral part of life and parenthood is considered to be sacred, harsh criticism of the anti-natalism philosophy is to be expected. In our country, people have children for a variety of reasons i.e. pleasure, to continue the family name, to look after them in their old age and for the company of an existing child.[5] It wouldn’t be wrong to say that some parents consider their children as their investments rather than individuals. They try to foist their beliefs, expectations and decisions on them. Mr. Samuel says that since children did not consent to being born, they don’t owe their parents and neither do their parents own them.

While the anti-natalism philosophy has it’s share of criticism, it cannot be denied that not having children is also an option and people who choose to exercise this option should not be ostracised. The anti-natalism philosophy is become popular among millennials worldwide. As for India, it needs to be seen how this movement is going to be received here.

 

 


[1]What is antinatalism? And why Raphael Samuel of Mumbai is suing his parents for giving birth to him!

, The Times of India, (February 7, 2019), available at https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/life-style/relationships/love-sex/what-is-antinatalism-and-why-raphael-samuel-of-mumbai-is-suing-his-parents-for-giving-birth-to-him/articleshow/67882775.cms.

[2]  K. Akerma, Antinatalismus – Ein Handbuch, epubli, 2017.

[3] Virginia Pelley, This Extreme Sect of Vegans Thinks Your Baby Will Destroy the Planet

 (January 29, 2018), available at https://www.marieclaire.com/culture/a14751412/antinatalism.

[4] Shwetha Sengar, These Indians Don’t Want You to Make Babies Because Consent of Child Being Conceived Matters, India Times, (February 2, 2019), available at https://www.indiatimes.com/news/india/these-indians-don-t-want-you-to-make-babies-because-consent-of-child-being-conceived-matters-361471.html.

[5] Supra at note 3.

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