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August 2021

Stud Fam Plann. 1987 Jan-Feb; 18(1): 1-21.

The role of traditional fertility regulation in Sri Lanka.

Caldwell J, Gaminiratne KH, Caldwell P, de Silva S, Caldwell B, Weeraratne N, Silva P.

Among the countries of South Asia, Sri Lanka, with a birth rate of 26 per 1,000, has achieved by far the lowest fertility level. The research reported here shows that at least half of all fertility control there is still practiced by means other than those offered by the national family planning program. This paper reports on an investigation carried out by the Sri Lankan Department of Census and Statistics, employing a micro-approach to demographic research, on the levels of "traditional" methods of family planning and attitudes toward the practice of both modern and traditional contraception. It is shown that knowledge of rhythm was diffused throughout society as the cost of raising children increased during a period when other methods of family planning were not easily accessible. These traditional methods were employed efficiently and their high level of continued use arises from strong cultural resistance to the pill and IUD, based upon local interpretations of how these methods function. Thus, any programmatic effort to reduce dependence on traditional family planning might well result in higher fertility levels. In addition, low fertility among Indian Tamil workers on the Tea Estates, as early as the 1950s, probably resulted from a desire (manifested by lower levels of sexual activity and some abortion) to avoid frequent pregnancies, since pregnancy interrupts work that the female Estate workers cannot afford to miss.

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