Gandhi never fell for the nonsense of Malthusian population arithmetic which is the basis of all the fear of over-population. In a most scientific argument, he wrote the following in 1925 (around the same time Rabindranath Tagore wrote a letter of approval to Margaret Sanger):
If it is contended that birth–control is necessary for the nation because of over-population, I dispute the proposition. It has never been proved. In my opinion, by a proper land system, better agriculture and a supplementary industry, this country is capable of supporting twice as many people as there are in it today. (YI, 2-4-1925, p. 118)
Since it was the contention of birth-controllers that "surplus children" are given birth to because couples fear that some may be lost due to the "three-fold curse" of pestilence, wars and famines, Gandhi's proposal was to stop those three in order to stop surplus children. He argued that self-control (i.e., abstinence) is the "sovereign remedy" which does not bring greater evils in its train (the evil of South India's falling fertility is just one of them), but rather further ennobles people:
The bogey of increasing birth-rate is not a new thing. It has been often trotted out. Increase in population is not and ought not to be regarded as a calamity to be avoided. Its regulation or restriction by artificial methods is a calamity of the first grade, whether we know it or not. It is bound to degrade the race if it becomes universal, which, thank God, it is never likely to be. Pestilence, wars and famines are cursed antidotes against cursed just which is responsible for unwanted children. If we would avoid this three-fold curse, we would avoid too the curse of unwanted children by the sovereign remedy of self–control. The evil consequences of artificial methods are being seen by discerning men even now. Without, however, encroaching upon the moral domain, let me say that propagation of the race rabbit-wise must undoubtedly be stopped; but not so as to bring greater evils in its train. It should be stopped by methods which in themselves ennoble the race. In other words, it is all a matter of proper education which would embrace every department of life; and dealing with one curse will take in its orbit all the others. A way is not to be avoided because it is upward and therefore uphill. Man’s upward progress means ever-increasing difficulty, which is to be welcomed. (H, 31-3-1946, p. 66)Gandhi called artificial methods of birth control as "sin presented in the garb of virtue". Note that Marie Stopes, someone I haven't paid much attention to in this series, was the UK-version of Margaret Sanger. Wrote Gandhi in 1935:
Man must choose either of the two courses, the upward or the downward; but as he has the brute in him he will more easily choose the down ward course than the upward , especially when the down ward course is presented to him in a beautiful garb. Man easily capitulates when sin is presented in the garb of virtue, and that is what Marie Stopes and others are doing. (H, 1-2-1935, p. 410)Gandhi very correctly foretold the effects of contraception and other artificial methods of birth control on society, pointing out that they insulted womanhood, dissolved the bond of marriage, and enable free love (that is, extramarital sex):
I am afraid that advocates of birth-control take it for granted that indulgence in animal passion is a necessity of life and in itself a desirable thing. the solicitude shown for the fair sex is most pathetic. In my opinion, it is an insult to the fair sex to put up her case in support of birth–control by artificial methods. As it is, man has sufficiently degraded her for his lust, and artificial methods, no matter how well-meaning the advocates may be, will still further degrade her.And by the way, Sanger met Gandhi in 1936, before meeting Tagore. Needless to say, she didn't get any support from him.
I urge the advocates of artificial methods to consider the consequences. Any large use of the methods is likely to result in the dissolution of the marriage bond and in free love. If man may indulge in animal passion for the sake of it, what is he to do whilst he is, say, away from his home for any length of time, or when he is engaged as a soldier in a protracted war, or when he is widowed, or when his wife is too ill to permit him the indulgence without injury to her health, notwithstanding the use of artificial methods. (YI, 2-4-1925, p. 118)
More quotes from Gandhi on this subject on mkgandhi.org.
To be continued.