My Body, My Problem’:
among Rural Bangladeshi Women
Reproductive anthropology has highlighted the need to recognize the restrictive influence of society and culture on women's ability to independently control their fertility (Lock and Kaufert 1998; Harcourt 1997; Newman 1995; Sen, Germain and Chen 1994; Browner 1986; Sargent 1982). Sargent (1989) cited the interaction of both extrinsic and intrinsic factors that shape reproductive decisions and result in ‘juggling’ multiple agendas based on both ideological and material considerations. Ideological and cultural concerns that make up fertility decisions are entwined within the family. As Newman (1995: 16) observes ‘contraceptive decisionmaking is a product of multiple and continuing negotiations in the family arena a concern not only of the couple, but of the extended family’ (see also Mumtaz and Rauf 1997). Further, pressures from extended family toward certain reproductive goals often stand in contrast to the goals of international family planning programmes targeting young married women of childbearing age with strong messages promoting contraceptive use (Sen et al. 1994).
This is especially relevant to family planning efforts in Bangladesh, a poor, overpopulated country (Hartmann and Boyce 1989, Maloney 1986). Family planning efforts have been a successful cornerstone of a broader development strategy intended to alleviate poverty (see Cleland et al.1994). While early family planning research in Bangladesh focused on appropriate population control policy (Paul 1986), programming (Bhatia 1980), cost effectiveness (Caldwell and Caldwell 1992; Simmons et al. 1991) and factors affecting fertility, more recently attention has turned to cultural factors – specifically considerations of gender (Aziz