India's Poorest Women Coerced Into Sterilization

| by Emily Smith
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Financial incentives have driven the rate of female sterilization up in India, where a family can receive up to $10 for every female member who chooses to be sterilized.

According to the Human Rights Watch, some federal health workers are still threatened by salary cuts or dismissal, though formal targets set by the federal government were abandoned in 1996. Health workers will often coerce women into sterilization — who are unaware that they will not be able to conceive — to meet informal quotas. The pressure is greatest during the approach of the fiscal year’s end in March, a time some call “sterilization season.”

Rather than teach illiterate women how to use pills or contraceptives, which would cost the country more, India opted to compensate women for sterilization in an effort to control its skyrocketing population.

India’s population is expected to surpass China’s in 2021.

More than 4 million women were sterilized in India last year and often in unsanitary rooms with rusted equipment, merely washed in warm water between patients. Sonhoula surgeon A.K. Das said that government-issued equipment was expected to be brand-new, but doctors received rusted tools that could lead to infection instead. He added that he had also run out of anesthesia, forcing him to use a weaker sedative for his remaining patients.

Recovering patients lie on the floor until they are able to carry themselves home.

While tubal litigation is exceptionally common, vasectomies included only 4 percent of sterilizations last year.

“Women are the easiest prey,” said Kerry McBroom, director of reproductive rights at the Human Rights Law Network. “Whether it is government officials or their husbands asking them to undergo the operation.”

S.K. Sikdar, who heads the population control program at the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, insisted that there is no pressure to perform the procedure aside from isolated cases of overeager officers. He added that the ministry promotes sterilization in addition to other birth control methods.

Sources: Bloomberg, Live Mint