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Sterilization Camps in India

india-sterilizationAnne Roback Morse gave an address on March 13, 2015 at the United Nations surrounding the Commission on the Status of Women at a panel titled, “Coerced Sterilizations, Abortions, and Reproductive Rights.” The following remarks are based on excerpts from that address.

Last November, 83 women were sterilized in a matter of hours at a sterilization camp in the east Indian state of Chhattisgarh. At least a dozen women died from the unhygienic conditions, and the large number of deaths in one sterilization camp garnered international media attention. While sterilization camps rarely claim a dozen lives at a time, women are routinely maimed and killed in sterilization camps in India. In the four months since news of the Chhattisgarh camp broke, sterilization camps and their horrors steadily continue.

India’s “family planning” system is more about controlling reproduction than planning families. Throughout the country, states set yearly and quarterly targets for sterilization “acceptors” and sterilization camps. With the emphasis set on targets, sterilizations are treated as a substitute for holistic healthcare. Women—often the poor, marginalized, and illiterate—pay the price.*

According to India’s own government data, sterilizations and abuses are epidemic. According to India’s most recent National Health Survey, over one in three women in India between the ages of 15 and 45 have been sterilized. By the time women reach the age of 35, one in two women in India have been sterilized. Among women who have been sterilized, one in three say that they weren’t informed that the procedure was permanent. Two out of every three women who have undergone the procedure say they were not informed about possible side effects.  Most sterilizations are performed on women when they are between the ages of 20 and 35, but one out of every hundred teenage girls in India have also been sterilized. On average, three women die every week from botched sterilizations.*

India’s system of sterilization camps is deliberate and pervasive. India’s systematic sterilization of women en masse, without informed consent, and in dangerous conditions demands our attention.

In just five short years, India will be home to the largest population of women of reproductive age in the world. Anyone concerned with women’s rights—or indeed human rights—cannot continue to ignore India’s systematic sterilization camps. Any country or organization which funds or co-implements sterilization camps in India has the moral obligation to cease funding until India enacts genuine reform in their public health sector. To continue funding of sterilization camps is to incur responsibility for the human rights abuses.

*India’s adult female literacy rate is 50%.

**This is according to official, reported government statistics. The actual number is probably larger.


This article is courtesy of the Population Research Council.
  • Marissa

    As always, it’s the women who bear the pain and danger of invasive surgery
    Simpler, safer, quicker, cheaper & less invasive solution?
    Just geld the men.