By: Saipriya V
Sterilization is a common procedure used to terminate fertility . The two most common procedures include tubectomy in women and vasectomy in men. Though the male sterilization procedure is medically less complicated, globally 2.5 to 4 times women are sterilized than men (1).
In India, since late 1990’s health care system targets women for the family planning programs (2). For women, especially those who suffer the burden of India’s patriarchal society, and women who live in poverty the sterilization procedure is the only way to avoid having several children. The financial incentives given by the government indirectly forces women to undergo the sterilization procedures , so that their husbands can get the money.
The health care workers deliberately target women, especially in the rural areas for the mass sterilization camps run by Indian government . Every year these mass sterilization camps take the lives of at least 5 to 10 women (2–4). This is because most of the camps take place in a school or at the camp site, where there is minimal access to water and sterilized environment. In 2013, 100 women were sterilized in few hours and were ‘abandoned’ unconsciously in the field , because they could not accommodate their numbers. Similarly 2014, 83 women were sterilized by a doctor in less than 3 hours in Chhattisgarh, where 68 women were treated for septic shock and 11 women died following the surgery (2–4).
It is shocking to see our women were treated like ‘cattle’ in these sterilization camps. Unequal treatment of women in these societies leaves them vulnerable to violence, mistreatment, physical and emotional harm.
Health care workers were forced to reach sterilization target every year, so they hesitate to educate women, about other birth control options. Instead, they encourage them through incentives, often targeting poor and marginalized women. In our society being women and being poor clearly leaves women to have no choices over their bodies.
The family planning programs should be refashioned by focusing more on educating women about the other birth control options and empower her rights over her body.
1. Cullins V. Sterilization: Long-Term Issues. Glob Libr Women’s Med [Internet]. 2008; Available from: http://www.glowm.com/section_view/heading/sterilization:long-termissues/item/404
2. Bode L De. Why Indian women are victims of sterilization “cattle camps” [Internet]. ALJAZEERA AMERICA. 2014. Available from: http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2014/11/14/women-india-sterilization.html
3. Chaurasia M. India mass sterilisation: women were “forced” into camps, say relatives. theguardian.
4. Neha Wadekar. INDIAN WOMEN ARE BEING STERILIZED [Internet]. NewsWorthy. Available from: http://www.nehawadekar.com/the-reality-of-sterilization-in-india-part-i/