How the Government-Funded Parsi Fertility Scheme Works

Research identifies low fertility, late and childless marriages, inter-marriage and divorce as some of the reasons that Parsis — Zoroastrians who emigrated from Persia to India more than a thousand years ago — are one of the only communities outside Europe with dwindling numbers. The Parsis have shrunk from 114,000 in the 1950s to 69,000 in 2001, or 0.007% of India’s population, according to the latest-available census data.

The Jiyo Parsi program’s witty but controversial ad campaign, launched last month, takes on these challenges by playing off common stereotypes about this tiny but influential community.

The Parsi community’s exclusiveness is also contributing to its decline, she said. Conversion is forbidden, non-Parsis are not allowed inside places of worship, and intermarriage with members of other faiths and communities is frowned upon.

The program is aimed at low-income and middle-class Parsis who wouldn’t be able to afford expensive medical treatment like IVF, which could cost up to 500,000 rupees, around $8,000, said Ms. Cama.

“There’s a misconception that all Parsis are wealthy,” she said, adding that many Parsi families in villages in the western state of Gujarat who don’t have access to computers have asked for information about the program via regular post.

The program hopes to facilitate at least 200 births in the 5 years it has funding from India’s federal government. Ten children were born through the program in 2014, including one pair of twins, said Ms. Cama.

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