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Sterilizing Women in Muslim Uzbekistan

Published: 12/04/2012 08:18:27 PM GMT
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TASHKENT - Uzbekistan's government is reportedly running a secret program to sterilize women without their knowledge in an effort to control the growing population in the Muslim-majority country.“Every year we are presente (more)

TASHKENT - Uzbekistan's government is reportedly running a secret program to sterilize women without their knowledge in an effort to control the growing population in the Muslim-majority country.

“Every year we are presented with a plan,” a gynecologist from the Uzbek capital, Tashkent, told the BBC News Online on Thursday, April 12.

“Every doctor is told how many women we are expected to give contraception to; how many women are to be sterilized."Islam's Stance on Female Sterilization

Doctors claim that they are being ordered by the government of President Islam Karimov to sterilize women without their consent.

"There is a quota. My quota is four women a month,” the gynecologist added on condition of anonymity.

Doctors in rural areas are asked to sterilize more women.

Two medical sources told the BBC that some gynecologists are expected to sterilize up to eight women per week.

"Once or twice a month, sometimes more often, a nurse from the local clinic comes to my house trying to get me to the hospital to have the operation," said a mother of three in the Jizzakh region of Uzbekistan.

"Now it's free, but later you will have to pay for it, so do it now," the nurse tells the mother.

A Health Ministry source confirmed that the secret sterilization program aims to control Uzbekistan's population growth.

"We are talking about tens of thousands of women being sterilized throughout the country," said Sukhrob Ismailov, who runs the Expert Working Group, one of very few non-governmental organizations operating in Uzbekistan.

In 2010, the group gathered evidence that some 80,000 women have been sterilized, a claim that can't be verified.

"On paper, sterilizations should be voluntary, but women don't really get a choice," said a senior doctor from a provincial hospital, who wished to remain unnamed.

"It's very easy to manipulate a woman, especially if she is poor. You can say that her health will suffer if she has more children. You can tell her that sterilization is best for her. Or you can just do the operation."

Uzbekistan, Central Asia's most populous nation, has a 28-million population.

The country, where Muslims make up 88 percent of the 28 million population, is one of the world's biggest producers of cotton and has huge natural gas and mineral reserves.

Yet, economy is sluggish and unemployment is towering.

Rights groups have long accused Uzbekistan of suppressing religious freedoms as part of a campaign against extremism.

Dashed Dream

Adolat was one of Uzbek women sterilized without her consent.

"What am I after what happened to me?" the women told the BBC.

"I always dreamed of having four - two daughters and two sons - but after my second daughter I couldn't get pregnant.”

She recalls going to see a doctor after giving birth to her daughter in a Caesarean operation.

To her shock, the doctor told her that she was sterilized.

"I was shocked. I cried and asked: 'But why? How could they do this?' she asked.

“That's the law in Uzbekistan,'" the doctor answered.

Other Uzbek women encounter similar experiences.

An Uzbek mother told the BBC that she experienced months of mysterious pain and heavy bleeding following the birth of her son.

Having an ultrasound check, she discovered that her uterus had been removed.

"They just said to me, 'What do you need more children for? You already have two,'" she says.

The Uzbek government denies the allegation, describing the claims as slanderous and bore no relation to reality.

In a written reply to the BBC, the government said surgical contraception was not widespread and was carried out only on a voluntary basis.

But some doctors cite the rising number of Caesarean operation as a proof on the sterilization program in Uzbekistan.

"Rules on Caesareans used to be very strict, but now I believe 80% of women give birth through C-sections,” said a chief surgeon at a hospital near the capital.

“This makes it very easy to perform a sterilization and tie the fallopian tubes.”

Several doctors and medical professionals said forced sterilisation is not only a means of population control but also a bizarre short-cut to lowering maternal and infant mortality rates."It's a simple formula - less women give birth, less of them die," said one surgeon.

Reproduced with permission from