A report claims Israel pressured women to reduce its poor black population. Reproductive rights need defending across the world
By: Lisa Hallgarten
Should gynaecologists need to be told not to give women contraceptive injections without establishing fully informed consent? Of course not. But that is what has happened in Israel after it was revealed in a report by a women’s rights organisation that Ethiopian women have been given injections of Depo-Provera without sufficient understanding of the purpose or side effects of the drug. Some Ethiopian women in transit camps were refused entry to the country if they refused the injection, and others wrongly believed they were being inoculated against disease. While Israeli demographers discuss the need to “preserve a clear and undisputed Jewish majority among Israel’s total population”, it may seem anomalous that women in the Jewish Ethiopian population are forced or coerced into using this highly effective contraceptive method.
However, the conclusions of the report, written by Hedva Eyal, are that the injections given to Ethiopian women are “a method of reducing the number of births in a community that is black and mostly poor”.
Many people may be unaware that the Israeli case is merely the tip of a global iceberg of human rights abuses in the field of reproductive health. Forced sterilisation of people with learning disabilities and people of minority ethnic groups was documented across Europe and the US in the 20th century. Under the state of emergency in India between 1975 and 1977, thousands of men and millions of women were bribed, coerced and sometimes forced to undergo sterilisation. As recently as 1996 in Peru, a demographic policy led to a sevenfold increase in sterilisations in just two years, effected through widespread violations of women’s rights. A provider explained: “Many [providers] did not inform women that they were going to be sterilised – they told them the procedure was something else. But I felt this was wrong. I preferred to offer women a bag of rice to convince them to accept the procedure and explained to them beforehand what was going to happen.” ….
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