You know how population control campaigners are often concerned about women having “reproductive choice”? The choice to plan their families and to use contraceptives? For example the Gates Foundation’s website says this:
“We focus on stimulating demand for and providing high-quality, affordable, and voluntary family planning information, services, and supplies in these communities, primarily through the Urban Reproductive Health Initiative in Uttar Pradesh, India, and in Nigeria, Kenya, and Senegal.”
However, when it comes to voluntary family planning services, how much in third world countries really means paying women (or their families) to have long-term contraceptive/sterlisiation services that take away the opportunity for women to do the most wonderful thing that they can – to become mothers? And I wonder how many women undergoing these procedures are doing so without full knowledge or meaningful consent?
I ask these questions after reading this article from the AsiaNews website about the Indian sterilisation programme. What is the real face of sterilisation programmes that are giving women back their “freedom”? Well, let’s see:
“A dozen tables next to each other, sheets stained with blood, doctors and nurses without coats, sometimes without protective masks, and tools only rinsed with hot water are the conditions in which 4.6 million women underwent sterilisation against their will in India last year in accordance with the government’s birth control policies.”
4.6 million forced sterilisations??! In one year? In one country? Where is the outrage? Where is the “war on women” slogans?? Where are the in-depth stories in the news media? Nowhere. Of course. Imagine if instead India had, I don’t know, restricted abortion access. Do you think it would make international headlines? Do you think that western women pundits would be complaining about this assault on the freedom of Indian women? Of course they would. But when it comes to actual forced sterilisations – actual assaults on freedom, the radio silence is deafening.
But what has this to do with the Gates foundation? Presumably, the foundation is against this, after all they are all about “voluntary” birth control policies. Well, so is India:
“Often women are tricked into accepting tubal ligation. Recruited for birth control campaigns, actors go from village to village, offering women US$ 10, or about a week’s salary for a poor family, in order to undergo this operation. In principle, it is a free choice but in practice the women are not told that they can no longer have children. Many agree only because of the extreme poverty in which they live.
‘I did it out of desperation,’ said Devi, 25, as she lay on the concrete floor recuperating at the clinic in the state of Bihar. ‘We’re so poor, we need the money. Health officials came to our home. They told us it would be best.’”
And when you are poor, poorly educated and visited by health officials, is it any surprise that women agree to this despite not knowing the full consequences? And isn’t it despicable that women aren’t told about the rather important point that they won’t be able to have children anymore before undergoing this procedure?
Some people (mainly Westerns) will say, oh well, India needs to do something to stem the flow of people. What they really mean is that they want Indian women’s rights curtailed (actual rights not to undergo medical procedures – not made up ones about right to kill your unborn child etc etc) so that they can continue to enjoy their lavish lifestyle without feeling guilty about too many people (read: brown and black people) on the planet. But even if overpopulation is a problem, do we want it to be solved by forcing young, poor Indian girls to undergo sterilisation? Or does the ends justify the means?
These sterilisation programmes in India are just another step on the long road of birth control in the sub-continent.
“According to United Nations data, 49 per cent of all couples in India practice birth control. Of that group, about three-quarters do so by having the wife sterilised.
India was the first country in the world to introduce a policy designed to reduce population, beginning in 1952 as hunger mounted in the years following independence.
When it comes to female sterilisations, India leads the world with 37 per cent, more than China (34 per cent).”
And when it comes to the poorest and least literate state in India, Bihar, the sterilisation is going ahead in leaps and bounds –
“In Bihar, the authorities plan to sterilise 650,000 women and 12,000 men annually, according to the state health ministry. This year the state is planning more than 12,000 female sterilisation camps.”
12,000 female sterilisation camps…doesn’t that just sound peachy?