Abstract: The essay analyses the role of human rights for the population control movement from the 1940s to the 1970s. It is based on records from the Population Council, the International Planned Parenthood Federation and the United Nations. It shows that rights-based language was introduced by advocates of population control and not by its critics and argues that portraying overpopulation as a problem for the realization of human rights became a successful political strategy in building alliances with states and the UN’s leadership. Both were key factors for the financial support and widespread implementation of population control programmes from the 1960s onwards.
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