But the primary means Azerbaijanis are using to control how many children they have is not birth control but rather abortion and that is producing a serious problem: Potential parents are using abortions to select the gender of their children, creating a gender imbalance that may mean there won’t be enough brides for potential grooms.
Azerbaijani legislators have proposed various steps to correct this situation, but they have gone nowhere, Aby Shukyurov of Moscow’s Higher School of Economics says, because opponents insist that the desire for sons is an established national tradition that should not be challenged.
The authorities have launched a propaganda campaign against gender selective abortions and have banned state hospitals from providing information on the sex of fetuses. But that has led Azerbaijanis to turn to underground medical facilities that will provide them with the information they want.
Up to now, however, Baku has not been successful in fighting this practice or in fighting early marriages, although it has tried to restrict those as well. In part, Shukhyurov says, this is because Azerbaijan for a very long time has touted demographic growth as something that gives the country an advantage over Armenia which is suffering demographic losses.
But in the coming decades, Azerbaijan is going to face demographic decline as well because of falling birthrates; and to improve its situation, it will have to devote more attention to still troublingly high rates of infant and maternal mortality if it hopes to keep its own decline at a minimum, the Moscow analyst says.
Window on Eurasia