04/18/2013, 00.00
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Forced abortions to control Nepal's religious minorities

by Kalpit Parajuli
Nepal's National Women Commission, a government organisation dedicated to the defence of women, raises the issue. In the poorest villages, gynaecologists videotape the pains of childbirth to convince women to have abortions.

Kathmandu (AsiaNews) - More and more Nepali doctors are forcing women to undergo illegal abortions, this according to the National Women Commission (NWC), an organisation set up by the Nepali government to protect the rights of women. For NWC spokesperson Mohana Ansari, various religious and economic factors are behind it, including a desire to limit the number of births among Christian and Muslim minorities, a sick interest in videotaping the body and private parts of young women, and the attraction of public funds earmarked for therapeutic abortions.

"If a young woman gets pregnant," Ansari said, "she has the right to give birth to the child, but many doctors continue to abuse their power, and for this reason we are going to the Supreme Court." To back her claim, the activist cites several cases of women locked up in tiny rooms for checkups who are then raped by unscrupulous people, despite their pregnancy.

"One young woman," she said, "had a videotape made by a gynaecologist to show the suffering of childbirth so as to convince young women, especially the poorest, to have an abortion."

Human rights activist Mera Dhungana said that such individuals can be punished under Nepali law. All it takes is evidence that they breached their ethical and professional code of conduct.

"However, certain interests are behind illegal abortions. Doctors who perform them are often protected by politicians or religious leaders."

In Nepal, the termination of pregnancy has been legal since 2002 in cases in which the health of the woman or the child is in danger, in cases of rape or if the woman is mentally unfit or not of sound mind. Selective or forced abortions are illegal.

In rural areas, many foreign non-governmental organisations have encouraged a culture of contraception and voluntary sterilisation to fight poverty.

Since 2006, at least one in ten women has had an abortion or has used abortion pills and contraceptives. Between 2001 to 2006, the fertility rate dropped from 4.1 to 3.3.

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