Via Broadsheet comes incredibly disturbing news out of Uzbekistan. Human rights groups, victims, and health officials are accusing the government of sterilizing hundreds of Uzbek women without their knowledge and against their will in an attempt to lower the birthrate.
From the Associated Press:
Human rights advocates and doctors say autocratic President Islam Karimov this year ramped up a sterilization campaign he initiated in the late 1990s. In a decree issued in February, the Health Ministry ordered all medical facilities to “strengthen control over the medical examination of women of childbearing age.”
The decree also said that “surgical contraception should be provided free of charge” to women who volunteer for the procedure.
It did not specifically mandate sterilizations, but critics allege that doctors have come under direct pressure from the government to perform them: “The order comes from the very top,” said Khaitboy Yakubov, head of the Najot human rights group in Uzbekistan.
While Uzbekistan may be the only country where forced sterilization is government policy, in reality far too many governments have been supportive of the practice. The AP mentions that Amnesty International has accused authorities in China of pushing coerced sterilizations. And Ryan Brown at Broadsheet reminds us that this practice is very much a part of recent U.S. history:
In our justifiably horrified response to this piece of news, we should keep in mind that 60,000 Americans, primarily the mentally ill, have been legally sterilized against their will. And I’m not talking ancient history — the procedure was performed in several states well into the 20th century, with the last recorded legal forced sterilization taking place in Oregon in 1981. That means there are still Americans living with the brutal consequences of their government’s belief that the decision to reproduce did not belong to them, a burden that they now allegedly share with hundreds of women half a world away.