Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Forced sterilisation: a western issue too

I have a new post up at The Guardian

Much of reproductive rights activism is squarely centred on the right to have access to birth control and abortion. But while this remains an important factor in securing women's rights, the right to become a mother is a paramount issue to millions of women across the globe. The pro-life movement continues to suggest that women are "killing babies" but ignores the millions of women who have been prevented from ever carrying a child: the right to motherhood is the other side of the reproductive coin, which does not receive enough attention.

Times Online recently featured an article discussing forced sterilisation in China to enforce the one-child rule. The article states that in Puning, a county in Guangdong province, the government is imprisoning relatives of people who have broken the one-child policy in an attempt to force them to submit to sterilisations; the goal is to complete 9,559 sterilisations.

Similarly, a human rights group has recently alleged that Uzbekistan's government had instructed health workers to surgically sterilise women as part of a campaign to reduce its birth rate. But while the east is often singled out for its breaches on human rights (and by doing so reifying a false east/west divide), forced sterilisation continues to be a real and present danger in the Americas.

The Movimiento Amplio de Mujeres Linea Fundacional has worked to raise awareness regarding the forced sterilisation that occurred in family planning centres in Latin America between 1995 and 2000. The Latin American and Caribbean Committee for the Defence of the Rights of Women found that health officials in Peru used threats, promises and bribes to convince campesinas to submit to these operations. The BBC reports that 215,227 "sterilising operations on women" occurred in Peru alone. Unsurprisingly, the women targeted were poor, indigenous, rural and Quechua-speaking. This happened a scant 10 years ago.

In the US, coercion and persuasion are also often used when sterilisation occurs. Women incarcerated after having been convicted of drug use during pregnancy or child abuse were, in several states, given the option to take Norplant to avoid or reduce the length of incarceration.

Finish reading here