Forced Sterilization


India’s answer to over population is sterilization…of women.


While sterilization in and of itself isn’t new to India, for the first time the country is outsourcing the work to private clinics — a move that has raised concerns about poor and illiterate women of rural India being pressured or fooled into going under the knife without fully understanding the risks, consequences and alternatives.


Cash rewards threaten to turn operating theaters into veritable assembly lines. The fund’s Santushti scheme offers private sector payment of 15,000 rupees per operation and hospitals and clinics get 500 rupees extra per case if 30 cases are done on a single day in a fixed facility.


These factors make it more likely women will be denied their right to make informed choices about their medical care and increase the chances of surgical complications, said Abhijit Das, a former fellow in Population Innovations at the MacArthur Foundation who now heads an NGO called Healthwatch Uttar Pradesh.


“When you create an incentive system, it privileges one solution over the other and encourages them to cut corners,” Das said. “And we’ve had very bad experiences with that in the past.”


And private-public partnerships have helped reduce the number of home births by increasing the number of facilities available to poor women. But the general perception remains that uneducated villagers can’t be trusted to use other birth control methods and female sterilization is the only foolproof solution.


“In certain states, it’s still a very male-dominated society, so there’s no certainty that women can ensure that a condom can be used. An IUD is a good alternative,” said Singh, referring to the acronym for intrauterine devices. “But until we’re able to increase use, then sterilization is the focus.”


According to the latest National Family Health Survey, 37 percent of Indian women have undergone sterilization, compared with 1 percent of men, while just 3 percent are on the pill and only 5 percent use condoms.

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