Compulsory sterilisation

Another effective method of population control is through government implementation of compulsory sterilisation.

The perception of compulsory sterilisation is often associated with oppressive government regimes of the distant past. In 1910, Winston Churchill wrote to the Prime Minister of the time, Herbert Asquith, stating “…the source from which the stream of madness is fed should be cut off and sealed up before another year has passed” referring to a report by the Royal Commission which recommended the sterilisation of the ‘feeble minded’.

In the USA, there were attempts to introduce legislation for compulsory sterilisation in several states in the late 1800s and early 1900s, again, there were mainly targeted at the ‘mentally retarded’, although the deaf, blind, disabled, and epileptic were also targets. Indiana was the first state to pass compulsory sterilisation legislation in 1907, and was closely followed by other states. The last compulsory sterilisation was performed in Oregon in 1981, but many states continued to have legislation available long after this.

Many other countries had active compulsory sterilisation programmes in place during the twentieth century, including Canada, Germany, Japan, India, China, Sweden, Switzerland, and others.

In the 21st century, there are still compulsory sterilisation programmes in place, or being considered, both openly and secretly.

Uzbekistan has been reported as implementing a compulsory sterilisation programme for women with two or more children as a method of population control. In 2007, reports of the United Commission Against Torture “…the large number of cases of forced sterilization and removal of reproductive organs of women at reproductive age after their first or second pregnancy indicate that the Uzbek government is trying to control the birth rate in the country”. As late as 2012, reports have been made of widespread use of the forced sterilisation policy in the country.

Women who are HIV positive have been sterilised without their consent in Namibia. The government justified the sterilisations as being necessary to prevent the HIV virus being passed to children.

South Africa has been accused of subversively sterilising women with HIV without their consent.  In 2011, The Guardian newspaper reported the story of Nonqaba Jacob, an HIV-positive woman and activist who was forcibly sterilised at Karl Bremer Hospital in South Africa while delivering her daughter via caesarean section.

In April 2012 it was revealed that UK aid money was being spent on the forcible sterilisation of men and women (including pregnant women) in India, often leaving the victims in agony with no aftercare. £166 million of UK aid money was used to fund the programme, with the Department for International Development stating that the programme was needed as part of fighting climate change. Doctors and officials are paid a bonus for the sterilisations they perform, and this has led to the rounding up of poor and under-educated people in rural areas who are told they are going to health camps. Those who are rounded up are given little opportunity to object, discovering that they have been sterilised after the operation has been performed.

Sweden still has laws requiring transgender people to be sterilised before the state will recognise their new gender identity.


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