Forced sterilisation of women in Uzbekistan

April 13, 2012


BBC Radio 4 brought a story about forced sterilisation in Uzbekistan on April 12th. Reporter Natalia Antelava of BBC World Service researched the issue and talked to doctors and women sterilised without their knowledge or consent.

Sterilisation is not officially the law in Uzbekistan. But evidence gathered by the BBC suggests that the Uzbek authorities have run a programme over the last two years to sterilise women across the country, often without their knowledge.

An anonymous gynaecologist from Tashkent, the capital, told Antelava: “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.” Two other medical sources suggest that there is especially strong pressure on doctors in rural areas of Uzbekistan, where some gynaecologists are expected to sterilise up to eight women per week. 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 be about 28 million people. 

Caesarean sections

Antelava: “Several doctors I spoke to say that in the last two years there has been a dramatic increase in Caesarean sections, which provide surgeons with an easy opportunity to sterilise the mother. These doctors dispute official statements that only 6.8% of women give birth through C-sections.” One of them, a chief surgeon at a hospital near the capital, said: “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.”

Full-text article Uzbekistan’s policy of secretly sterilising women, by Natalia Antelava, BBC World Service, 12 April 2012 

Listen to the podcast (25 min.) at the BBC World Service website