Do religious minorities perform alike in their fertility behaviour? a cross country comparison of India and Bangladesh

Biswamitra Sahu, University of Groningen
Inge Hutter, University of Groningen
Leo van Wissen, University of Groningen
Alinda Bosch, Netherlands Interdisciplinary Demographic Institute (NIDI)

This paper seeks to explore the extent to which parallels can be drawn in the fertility behaviour of religious minorities namely Muslims in India and Hindus in Bangladesh. The paper explores differences in levels of fertility and contraceptive use among the religious minorities. Secondly it seeks to test whether it is characteristic, minority status or sub-cultural hypothesis which extends the most viable explanation for these differentials. Finally the aim is to explore the parallels and divergences in minority situation across countries. This paper is based on data from survey conducted among 800 Muslims and Hindus in rural Dharwad and urban Bangalore in Karnataka, India and rural Matlab and urban Dhaka, Bangladesh. Data is also drawn from 120 in-depth interviews among women, men and religious leaders from both religious groups. The first and second questions will be answered through bivariate and multivariate analysis. Answers to the last question will be sought through application of grounded theory on ethnographic data. The preliminary results in India indicate higher fertility and lower contraceptive use among Muslims. Even with comparable levels of fertility among the religious groups there is greater desire for having an additional child among Muslim women. The sub-cultural attribute of religious groups has impact on their fertility behaviour for e.g. the restriction on Muslim women in India curtails their access to information and services extended by health services. Religious revivalism accentuates the restriction on physical mobility of women as well as their exposure to wider world view. The lack of attention to the religious sentiments of minorities in population policies can hinder the acceptance of family planning. Across borders the ghettoization of settlement pattern and consciousness of being discriminated among minorities hampers the process of acculturation and assimilation which are important prerequisite for the convergence of fertility pattern among majority and minority.

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Presented in Session 11: Religion and Fertility

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