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
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
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
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