Thursday, August 5, 2010
Coercive sterilization reported in Uzbekistan
The Independent reported Sat July 17th that Uzbek women are being sterilized against their will. The report says that Uzbekistan President Islam Karimov this year ramped up a sterilization campaign he initiated in the late 1990s.
A decree issued in February by 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. link to Independent article
Despite the fact that the so called "surgical contraception" or sterilization is supposed to be voluntary human rights defenders 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.
The sterilization campaign involves thousands of government-employed medical doctors and nurses who urge women of childbearing age, especially those with two or more children, to have hysterectomies or fallopian tube ligations, said Sukhrobjon Ismoilov of the Expert Working Group, an independent think tank based in the capital, Tashkent.
Many women, especially from poor rural areas, say they face coercion from health workers or even potential employers to agree to sterilization. Health workers involved in the campaign are threatened with salary cuts, demotion or dismissal if they do not persuade at least two women a month to be sterilized, a former high-ranking Health Ministry official told the AP on condition of anonymity.
Veronika Tretyakova, a 32-year-old doctor from Tashkent, said she came under pressure from health workers to be sterilized.
"The nurse said, 'They would hang me if I let you have another child,"' Tretyakova said. "I told her to think about her soul."
A 31-year-old mother of two from the eastern Uzbek city of Ferghana said the director of a kindergarten where she sought a job told her to show a certificate confirming she had been sterilized.
The report focuses on the story of Saodat Rakhimbayeva who says she wishes she had died with her newborn baby. The 24-year-old housewife had a cesarean section in March and gave birth to Ibrohim, a premature boy who died three days later.
Then came a further devastating blow: She learned that the surgeon had removed part of her uterus during the operation, making her sterile. The doctor told her the hysterectomy was necessary to remove a potentially cancerous cyst, while she believes he sterilized her as part of a state campaign to reduce birthrates.
"He never asked for my approval, never ran any checks, just mutilated me as if I were a mute animal," the pale and fragile Rakhimbayeva said through tears while sitting at a fly-infested cafe in this central Uzbek city. "I should have just died with Ibrohim."