The Silence of the Wombs

Forced Hysterectomies Avoid Hygiene Issues in Mentally Challenged

Holy Hormones Journal: Let’s be clear. Girls as young as 10 are forced into hysterectomies in a country where the population is booming beyond India’s control.  Is this a silent way of sterilizing a segment of the population who is mentally challenged? Is this Eugenics?  Chances are a woman who is mentally challenged may be more vulnerable to rape and bearing children – then choosing to have sex and have a child.

cerebral-palsyHowever, government officials and doctors are using forced hysterectomies as menstrual management ‘to avoid hygiene issues during menstruation.

For those of you who follow my blog, you know I mentioned that in the U.S., Depo Provera is being used for menstrual management for the mentally challenged in institutions.  According to one administrator – this has opened up the floodgates for these innocent women to be raped without the chance of pregnancy.  I cannot imagine the horror a woman must feel – even through her over-medicated state to be wheeled off in privacy by an orderly or some other staff to an empty room or closet or stairwell, silenced and then raped. Again and again.

I am grateful that in 2007  the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities guaranteed all intellectually disabled women “the right to full bodily integrity.”  The right to full body integrity should be a human right…. and not just for the disabled.

Having a hysterectomy at any age – opens up the floodgates for so many other mental, emotional and physical traumas.  And a life of

One last point. Neuroscience has shown that the brain can heal itself with the right care and feeding (nutritional support). Forced hysterectomies on a vulnerable and innocent population at such a young age – prevents these girls from improving their lives and functionality and bearing children.

The Silenced Wombs

The Hindu
August 4, 2013
by Divya Sreedharan

Does the presence of disability mean the absence of rights?
Divya Sreedharan reports on how hysterectomies are often forced on disabled women.

Farheena was just 10 and a half when she attained puberty. Doctors asked her mother Farida Rizwan to do a hysterectomy on Farheena. To stop her periods. Because Farheena is a special needs child — she has cerebral palsy.

“I was told the hysterectomy would help avoid hygiene issues during menstruation,” says Rizwan, who lived in Byndoor, a coastal town in Udupi, Karnataka, at the time. Other parents nearby had removed the uterus of their own young, disabled daughters. Rizwan refused. “I asked doctors about the side effects of such a surgery on someone so young. I never got an answer,” she says.

Farheena is 18 today, lives in Bangalore with her mother and brother, and attends a special needs school. She is active on Facebook, plays on her mother’s iPad, and manages her menstrual cycle on her own. “It took a while but I showed her how to use sanitary napkins, made her understand menstruation. She freaked out at first but with time the fear has gone,” says Rizwan.

The 2001 Census says there are 9.3 million disabled women in India. Farheena is one of them. She is luckier than most because her mother fights for her right to live with dignity. India is a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities 2007, which guarantees all intellectually disabled women “the right to full bodily integrity.” But it is common practice to conduct hysterectomies or sterilisations on mentally challenged girls, both by parents and by state agencies in government-run homes or shelters.

Denying basic rights

According to Shampa Sengupta, Director, Sruti Disability Rights Centre, Kolkata, forcible hysterectomies are a violation of human rights, apart from legal, moral and ethical rights. “It’s a denial of a woman’s basic right — her right to bear a child.”  What happens when girls as young as 9 or 12 are sterilised? There is no specific study in the Indian context but the Hysterectomy Association in the UK lists some of the risks as pelvic inflammatory disease, endometriosis, depression and back pain.

The practice of forced hysterectomies became public in 1994, when they were found being conducted on mentally challenged women between the ages of 18 and 35 at Sassoon General Hospital, Pune. A 1994 article in the British Medical Journal said “…health authorities claim consent was given by the women’s parents or other lawful guardians and that the operations were done to maintain the women’s hygiene during menstruation…” The same reason was cited in 2008 by the Maharashtra government seeking to conduct hysterectomies on 300-odd women in five government homes.

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Author: Leslie Carol Botha

Author, publisher, radio talk show host and internationally recognized expert on women's hormone cycles. Social/political activist on Gardasil the HPV vaccine for adolescent girls. Co-author of "Understanding Your Mood, Mind and Hormone Cycle." Honorary advisory board member for the Foundation for the Study of Cycles and member of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research.