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    » 06/12/2013, 00.00

    INDIA

    As a result of forced sterilisations, 4.6 million women can no longer have children in India



    The figure is from 2012. In order to keep in check the birth rate, forced tubal ligament is a top "contraceptive" method used in the country. Poor illiterate women are the most affected. In exchange for US$ 10, many accept to undergo the operation without knowing that they will become sterile. Yet, children continue to be born at a rate of about 18 million each year.

    New Delhi (AsiaNews/Agencies) - A dozen tables next to each other, sheets stained with blood, doctors and nurses without coats, sometimes without protective masks, and tools only rinsed with hot water are the conditions in which 4.6 million women underwent sterilisation against their will in India last year in accordance with the government's birth control policies.

    As part of such policies, vasectomies represent 4 per cent of all sterilisation operations performed. Instead, most forced sterilisations involve women in the poorest states in India. Bihar, which has the lowest annual per-capita income in the country and the highest illiteracy rate, leads the pack.

    Often women are tricked into accepting tubal ligation. Recruited for birth control campaigns, actors go from village to village, offering women US$ 10, or about a week's salary for a poor family, in order to undergo this operation. In principle, it is a free choice but in practice the women are not told that they can no longer have children. Many agree only because of the extreme poverty in which they live.

    "I did it out of desperation," said Devi, 25, as she lay on the concrete floor recuperating at the clinic in the state of Bihar. "We're so poor, we need the money. Health officials came to our home. They told us it would be best."

    In Bihar, the authorities plan to sterilise 650,000 women and 12,000 men annually, according to the state health ministry. This year the state is planning more than 12,000 female sterilisation camps.

    Women are the focus of the sterilisation drive because India has a patriarchal, male-dominated culture, said Sona Sharma, co-director of the Population Foundation of India, an advocacy group.

    "Men fear they will lose their virility or they will become weak if they undergo the operation," Sharma said. "As the breadwinners they make the decisions."

    According to United Nations data, 49 per cent of all couples in India practice birth control. Of that group, about three-quarters do so by having the wife sterilised.

    India was the first country in the world to introduce a policy designed to reduce population, beginning in 1952 as hunger mounted in the years following independence.

    When it comes to female sterilisations, India leads the world with 37 per cent, more than China (34 per cent).

    Paradoxically, large-scale sterilisation campaigns have not had the desired effects. Even though the population grew by 17.6 per cent in the last decade, 4 per cent less than in the previous decade, on average 18 million more children are born each year. One in five babies born in the world starts life in India.

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    See also

    01/06/2011 CHINA
    Forced abortions in China: you (and the UN) are funding them
    The president of Women’s Rights Without Frontiers appeals for a stop to funding by international organisations that support forced abortions and sterilisations in China.

    27/10/2004 PHILIPPINES
    Filipino economic lobbies press for population controls
    President Arroyo hopes to launch responsible parenthood programmes.

    10/02/2011 CHINA
    Chen Guangcheng, practically still in prison
    Despite serving a four-year sentence, the well-known blind lawyer, famous for his fight against forced abortions, says he is free only in his home. Still, he pledged to continue his fight for a more just China.

    22/02/2005 PHILIPPINES
    Fines and prison terms for not practicing contraception
    A committee of the Filipino Congress approved a bill on population control that would fine and sentence violators to prison terms. For Archbishop Capalla, it is a myth to think that having fewer children will bring wealth.

    30/01/2014 SINGAPORE
    In the Year of the Horse, Singapore's PM calls for more marriages and children
    In his message to the nation for the Lunar New Year, Lee Hsien Loong focuses on the birth rate. Last year, the rate dropped from 1.29 in 2012 to 1.19. On Valentine's Day, 300 couples will be married. The goal is to bring the birth rate to the replacement minimum of 2.1.



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