May 24, 2024

Indian women victimized in sterilization camps

Sterilization of poor Indian women is still a major tool used by state governments to slow population growth.

Sterilization of poor Indian women is still a major tool used by state governments to slow population growth. India carries out 37% of the world’s female sterilizations – 4.6 million of them last year. There are financial incentives, but often mass sterilizations camps are coercive and dangerous, as an article from the Bloomberg news service shows. An Indian lobby group, the New Delhi-based Human Rights Law Network, has filed a lawsuit to stop them.

“India has the most coercive birth control methods in the world after China,”  Abhijit Das, director of the Center for Health and Social Justice in New Delhi, told Bloomberg. “Family planning has become a system of quotas and human beings are the targets.”

Here are a few paragraphs describing the appalling conditions under which the women are sterilized:

“At the clinic, held in mid-March in the town of Sonhoula, the 33 women who had registered for surgery lined up in the heat outside as guards carrying bamboo sticks watched over them. They were then led into a dimly lit room, with peeling paint on the walls and bare concrete floors, and placed on makeshift operating tables propped up with bricks.

“Dressed in jeans and flip-flops, A.K. Das, the surgeon at the clinic, moved from one operating table to the next as he made an incision below the navel in each woman, then cut and tied their fallopian tubes. The patients were laid shoulder-to-shoulder on the floor in a separate room to recuperate.

“Das, who spent three minutes on each operation, ran out of anesthetic with more than 10 patients to go, forcing him to use a weaker sedative. He said he’s paid an extra $2 per patient by the government for continuing to operate under these circumstances. In between each operation an assistant washed the scalpel in a tray filled with warm water.

“’The surgical equipment is meant to be brand new, but look at this,’ he said, pausing during an operation to hold up the rust-stained scalpel he was using. ‘This is dirty and that will significantly increase the chance of infection.’ …

“Flies swarmed through the windows of the Bihar clinic, landing on patients. Das, the surgeon, removed his surgical mask after several operations because of the heat. Health workers milled about without protective gloves, shoes or masks. When the electricity shut down, a generator was cranked up. Dogs walked down the corridors outside the recovery room.

“The women had cotton wool taped over their wounds. Nurses stepped around those lying on the floor, offering pain killers to the ones who groaned in agony.

“’The program should be voluntary, said Das, the surgeon, his face dripping with sweat as he ended his day. ‘There shouldn’t be any targets. This isn’t why we entered medicine. The entire system needs to be changed.’”

Michael Cook
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