Uzbekistan: Women Sterilized Without Consent or Knowledge

The British Broadcasting Service (BBC) reported that a federal-level program in Uzbekistan is forcing women to undergo surgical sterilization, often without their knowledge or consent. “According to a source at the Ministry of Health, the sterilisation programme is intended to control Uzbekistan’s growing population, which is officially held to about 28 million people,” stated the BBC news report by Natalia Antelava. Getting accurate data is difficult in Uzbekistan, because foreign press is not allowed into the country and detention/prison terms for disloyalty to the existing government are common. However, BBC reporters were able to conduct interviews with women and physicians, most of whom spoke on condition of anonymity, all of whom shared a similar story: women are told after their cesarean deliveries that they were sterilized shortly after the birth of their children.

Reports of forced sterilizations date back to 2005, but the BBC’s sources report an increase in these cases starting in 2009. Those sources claim that all medical professionals, in cities and especially in rural areas, are given quotas. One physician stated: “Every year we are presented with a plan.  Every doctor is told how many women we are expected to give contraception to; how many women are to be sterilised. . . . There is a quota. My quota is four women a month.”

“On paper, sterilisations should be voluntary, but women don’t really get a choice,” said another doctor.  Another noted that obstetrics throughout the country had shifted in part due to the pressure from the government to perform the dictated quota of sterilizations: “Rules on caesareans used to be very strict, but now I believe 80% of women give birth through C-sections.  This makes it very easy to perform a sterilisation and tie the fallopian tubes.”

The Uzbekistan government has formally denied these allegations, stating that its maternal and infant health care record is a model for other countries.

Compiled from: Antelava, Natalia, Uzbekistan’s Policy of Secretly Sterilising Women, BBC News Magazine (11 April 2012).