ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Killing Women to Curb Population

The Chhattisgarh tragedy will repeat unless governments accept women's rights.

A laparoscopic tubectomy is supposed to be a simple operation. Yet in the hands of some surgeons, it would not be an exaggeration to call it butchery. For what else can you say when 83 poor women are coerced, enticed, duped to go to a sterilisation camp in a disused hospital in Takhatpur block of Bilaspur district in Chhattisgarh. There they are lined up on a dirty floor, and within five hours, surgeons operate on them and tie up their fallopian tubes. Within two days, eight of them are dead, another three die a day later and 20 are critical. The doctor who headed the entire operation, a man feted by the state government earlier in the year for having personally done 50,000 tubectomies, has been arrested and the families of the dead women given cash compensation. But does this deal with the policy that inevitably results in such atrocities?

What happened in Chhattisgarh is a reminder of the continuing callous approach of the centre and state governments towards what is euphemistically termed "population stabilisation". Despite years of struggle to establish that population growth is about people, and principally about women, and that their rights and health must be the central pivot on which any policy is shaped, we still continue with these barbaric sterilisation camps where poor women are treated as little more than cattle. That the men who operated on them should even be called "surgeons" is questionable given that they wilfully violated all guidelines, including those of the Supreme Court setting a limit of 30 operations per day and only 10 per instrument. Instead, they performed 83 tubectomies within five hours, or an operation every four minutes or so. Only three laparoscopes were used for this, obviating any chance of mandatory sterilisation. The women's prior health condition was not checked, they were not kept back for four hours after the operation as is required and there was no follow-up visit within 40 hours. When complications set in, death was inevitable.

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