Thu | Dec 5, 2019

Philippa Davies | Four visions, three problems and one common solution

Published:Tuesday | November 12, 2019 | 12:11 AMPhilippa Davies/Guest Columnist

It all has to do with babies.

THE 4 VISIONS: The four visions are the aspirations of our national development plan – to become that place where everyone in the world would choose to live, work, raise families, and/or do business.

To make the vision a reality, we need babies – babies who will grow up safe, healthy, and happy and mature into productive law-abiding citizens who can make Jamaica that place of choice. Babies who, as adults, will also have babies who will grow up safe, healthy, and happy, and so on. In other words, the vision depends on maintaining a population level and social environment conducive to keeping Jamaica in existence.

PROBLEM 1: Problem one is the revelation by the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ) in Parliament recently that with fewer births and high migration, Jamaica’s population is in decline. This fall in numbers has been happening for some decades now, as intended by the 1983 population policy to achieve ‘zero growth’. Yet, a plan for zero growth jeopardised Vision 2030 even before the vision was launched in 2007.

How can we become the place of choice to live, work, etc, if there are fewer people being born to do the living, working, and business? How can we become the place of choice if our citizens keep leaving and desire to leave?

The PIOJ’s recommendation is to apply measures being attempted by developed Western nations that are also facing population decline. These countries in Europe, North America, and parts of Asia are actually in desperate straits. Their birth rates have so precipitously fallen they have either resigned to going into extinction (Japan), are begging, even paying couples to have babies (Singapore), or are paying couples with at least one child (that is, proof of fertility) to live in their town with the hopes of repopulating it (Locana, Italy).

PROMOTE INCREASE?

Even the 1.6 billion-strong economic powerhouse China has awakened to the self-induced demographic crisis caused by its 36-year coercive one-child policy. Without enough babies being born, the future looks bleak. China now encourages having babies.

It must be noted that the call to procreate is made not to random men and women but to men and women in committed relationships with each other. This is because the starting premise for these societies that we are called on to emulate coincides with the human development reality that babies need their father and mother, the man and woman whose genes they carry, and who are to care for them until they reach adulthood.

May we, therefore, assume that the PIOJ’s recommendation to reverse the decline is to promote increase? An increase, however, within the context of stable father-mother relationships.

PROBLEM 2: This leads us to problem two – the low number of committed father-mother relationships in Jamaica, which militates against a stable increase. Enter stage right the latest buzz phrase being debated – ‘paternity leave’. Any positive step that can help turn Jamaica’s cultural mindset towards valuing committed father-mother relationships must be promoted.

The problem of the ‘missing father’ because he chooses not to be present, or the mother keeps him away, or society and culture facilitate his absence is a policy crisis that cannot be ignored.

The peculiar challenge of determining which kind of father deserves the leave – the married one, the common-law one, or the visiting boyfriend – could be addressed by examining the intent of establishing ‘paternity’. Paternity cannot merely be about sperm donation but should be about the man who publicly declares his association with the mother and his participation in the act of creating a new human life.

Society must then hold him accountable to provide for and nurture that new citizen to maturity. Society must pull out the stops to help both father and mother pursue a healthy, committed relationship with each other for their own good and for the good of their child, which will benefit us all. This relationship, at the core of the family, is proven to be the most efficient and cost-effective means to promote social stability.

PROBLEM 3: This leads us to problem three – the fate of baby Moses. In the same week as the news reports on population decline and increased attention to paternity leave came the news of a day-old baby who survived being abandoned in a pit latrine. Evidently, his father and mother are no longer into each other. A man who was once in a relationship with the mother has stepped forward to take responsibility if the paternity test proves a biological tie. But what if he isn’t the biological father? What becomes of Moses? His mother dumped him, and his father might also dump him. What, then, becomes of baby Moses?

If that wasn’t bad enough, just days later, another baby was dumped in a pit latrine.

Rejected and abandoned babies are incompatible with Jamaica becoming the place of choice. Enjoying intimate pleasures but abdicating the responsibility of parenting does not a stable society make.

COMMON SOLUTION

Here is the common solution. Vision 2030 needs 20/20 vision on marriage. Despite our apparent hostility to the word ‘marriage’, no one can deny the simple fact that children do best when raised by their committed biological mother and father in a stable, low-conflict home, the ideal of these being the married home.

Interestingly, the 1943 Jamaica Population Census observed: “It is beyond conjecture that a married population is more stable than an unmarried [one], and a movable population is largely unmarried or unaccompanied by wife or husband. Marriage, to a considerable extent, entails a degree of prosperity or prospects. It encourages thrift and is the condition most conducive to the caring of a family.”

The police, politicians, and policymakers who want a workable ‘crime plan’ and sustainable national development should advocate the preventative crime plan of stable married families.

As Maggie Gallagher (2005) put it, “Sex makes babies, society needs babies, children need their mothers and fathers. Connecting sex, babies, and moms and dads is the social function of marriage.”

To halt our demographic suicide and ensure the stable continuation of this land we love, #marriage matters, Jamaica.

Philippa Davies is an attorney-at-law and foster mother. Email feedback to marriagemattersja@gmail.com and columns@gleanerjm.com