India: Coerced sterilisation?

March 8, 2011

Press stories in Indian newspapers suggest that Adivasi (aboriginal) tribal people in southern India are soft targets for sterilisation. The government of Kerala is actively organising sterilisation camps. 

Tribals constitute 17 percent of the total population of the Wayanad district, and are vulnerable to various health problems that scale up infant mortality, maternal mortality and communicable diseases, including sexually transmitted ones. Adivasis in Wayanad are brought to sterilisation camps in large numbers by health workers. Doctors share that there are sterilisation camps every week at block level and that it is a fact that the majority brought to the camps are tribals. Apart from the weekly camps, there are district-level camps every year if possible. “Government officials deny coercion or compulsion, but the boundary between the two is narrow”, one journalist states.

“Official figures indicate that the number of tribals in Kerala is diminishing,” says CK Janu of the Adivasi Gothra Maha Sabha, a prominent tribal movement. “Yet the sterilisation programme is in full swing. It has to be viewed in connection with the issue of land alienation and the ongoing land struggles by Adivasis. The government does not want to give the alienated land back to tribals.” Even though District Medical Officers state that there are strict instructions not to force anybody, it is likely that some people may be coerced into sterilisation, as the health workers who try to convince people to go the sterilisation camps do not get a salary, but are paid on a commission basis. A former sterilisation promotor, a retired teacher disclosed: “We used all kinds of tactics, from appeasement to intimidation, to meet the target.” Health workers even mislead Adivasis by warning that they might not get the benefits and welfare schemes for tribals if they have more than two children.

Source: KK Shahina, Wayanad tribals are soft targets for sterilisation. Tehelka Magazine, Vol 8, Issue 5, February 05, 2011