Compulsory sterilization

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Compulsory sterilization, also known as forced sterilization (or compulsory sterilisation respectively forced sterilisation – see spelling differences), programs are government policies which attempt to force people to undergo surgical sterilization. In the first half of the 20th century, several such programs were instituted in countries around the world, usually as part of eugenics programs intended to prevent the reproduction and multiplication of members of the population considered to be carriers of defective genetic traits. Widespread or systematic forced sterilization has been recognized as a crime against humanity by the Rome Statute in the Explanatory Memorandum. This memorandum also defines the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court.[1][2] Despite international agreement concerning the inhumanity and illegality of forced sterilization, it has been suggested that Government of Uzbekistan continues to pursue such programs.[3] Also, in many countries, transgender people are required to undergo sterilization before gaining legal recognition of their gender. This is not to be confused with forced sterilization that is not associated with a government program. However the Report of United Nations Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment states that LGBT people often suffer the medical abuses or unfree surgeries (including female genital mutilation and male genital mutilation) despite the Principles 17 and 18 of the Yogyakarta Principles and mandatory surgery for gender recognition may consist a human rights violation.[4]

Alternatives to forced sterilization[edit]

Human population control is the practice of artificially altering the rate of growth of a human population. Historically, human population control has been implemented by limiting the population's birth rate, usually by government mandate, and has been undertaken as a response to factors including high or increasing levels of poverty, environmental concerns, religious reasons, and overpopulation. While population control can involve measures that improve people's lives by giving them greater control of their reproduction, some programs have exposed them to exploitation.[5]

By country[edit]

South Africa[edit]

In South Africa, there have been multiple reports of HIV-positive women sterilized without their informed consent and sometimes without their knowledge.[6] This is due to the fact that HIV-positive women are seen as "dirty."[6] Sterilizations to these women cause them to be ostracized from their communities, since they can no longer give birth. In their communities, if you cannot give birth then you are no longer seen as worthy. Due to the effects of forced sterilization to HIV-positive women in South Africa, they face many dangers that go beyond the biological aspect of forced sterilization.


Two Canadian provinces (Alberta and British Columbia) performed compulsory sterilization programs with eugenic aims. Canadian compulsory sterilization operated via the same overall mechanisms of institutionalization, judgment, and surgery as the American system.[why?] However, one notable difference is in the treatment of non-insane criminals. Canadian legislation never allowed for punitive sterilization of inmates.

The Sexual Sterilization Act of Alberta was enacted in 1928 and repealed in 1972. In 1995, Leilani Muir sued the Province of Alberta for forcing her to be sterilized against her will and without her permission in 1959. Since Muir’s case, the Alberta government has apologized for the forced sterilization of over 2,800 people. Nearly 850 Albertans who were sterilized under the Sexual Sterilization Act were awarded C$142 million in damages.[7]

Czechoslovakia and the Czech Republic[edit]

Czechoslovakia carried out a policy to sterilize some Romani women, starting in 1973. In various cases the sterilization was agreed upon, often in exchange for social welfare benefits or was given by the lack of education.[8] The dissidents of the Charter 77 denounced it in 1977–78 as a "genocide", but the practice continued through the Velvet Revolution of 1989.[9] A 2005 report by the Czech government's independent ombudsman, Otakar Motejl, identified dozens of cases of coercive sterilization between 1979 and 2001, and called for criminal investigations and possible prosecution against several health care workers and administrators.[10]


"We do not stand alone": Nazi poster from 1936 with flags of other countries with compulsory sterilization legislation

One of the first acts by Adolf Hitler after achieving total control over the German state was to pass the Law for the Prevention of Hereditarily Diseased Offspring (Gesetz zur Verhütung erbkranken Nachwuchses) in July 1933. The law was signed in by Hitler himself, and over 200 eugenic courts were created specifically as a result of the law. Under the German law, all doctors in the Reich were required to report patients of theirs who were intellectually disabled, mentally ill (including schizophrenia and manic depression), epileptic, blind, deaf, or physically deformed, and a steep monetary penalty was imposed for any patients who were not properly reported. Individuals suffering from alcoholism or Huntington's Disease could also be sterilized. The individual's case was then presented in front of a court of Nazi officials and public health officers who would review their medical records, take testimony from friends and colleagues, and eventually decide whether or not to order a sterilization operation performed on the individual, using force if necessary. Though not explicitly covered by the law, 400 mixed-race "Rhineland Bastards" were also sterilized beginning in 1937.[11] The sterilization program went on until the war started, with about 600,000 people sterilized.[12]

By the end of World War II, over 400,000 individuals were sterilised under the German law and its revisions, most within its first four years of being enacted. When the issue of compulsory sterilisation was brought up at the Nuremberg trials after the war, many Nazis defended their actions on the matter by indicating that it was the United States itself from whom they had taken inspiration. The Nazis had many other eugenics-inspired racial policies, including their "euthanasia" programme in which around 70,000 people institutionalised or suffering from birth defects were killed.[13]


In the first part of the Showa era, Japanese governments promoted increasing the number of healthy Japanese, while simultaneously decreasing the number of people suffering mental retardation, disability, genetic disease and other conditions that led to inferiority in the Japanese gene pool.[14][15]

The Leprosy Prevention laws of 1907, 1931 and 1953, permitted the segregation of patients in sanitariums where forced abortions and sterilization were common and authorized punishment of patients "disturbing peace".[16] Under the colonial Korean Leprosy prevention ordinance, Korean patients were also subjected to hard labor.[17]

The Race Eugenic Protection Law was submitted from 1934 to 1938 to the Diet. After four amendments, this draft was promulgated as a National Eugenic Law in 1940 by the Konoe government.[14] According to Matsubara Yoko, from 1940 to 1945, sterilization was done to 454 Japanese persons under this law.[18]

According to the Eugenic Protection Law (1948), sterilization could be enforced on criminals "with genetic predisposition to commit crime", patients with genetic diseases such as total color-blindness, hemophilia, albinism and ichthyosis, and mental affections such as schizophrenia, manic-depression and epilepsy.[19] The mental sicknesses were added in 1952.

The right to legal sex change in case of transsexual has been approved by legislation in 2004. The legislation only allows the person who has no children in addition to having undergone the sex reassignment surgery. The condition is amended in 2008 to "those who has no child under 20 years old", but still sterilization and sex reassignment surgery is compulsory to legal sex change.


India's state of emergency between 1975 and 1977 included a family planning initiative that began in April 1976 through which the government hoped to lower India's ever increasing population. This program used propaganda and monetary incentives to convince citizens to get sterilized. People who agreed to get sterilized would receive land, housing, and money or loans.[20] Because of this program, thousands of men received vasectomies and even more women received tubal ligations. However, the program focused more on sterilizing women than men. An article in The New York Times titled “For Sterilization, Target Is Women” states, “There were 114,426 vasectomies in India in 2002-03, and 4.6 million tubal ligations, the analogous operation on women, though ligation is a more complicated operation.” [21] Despite the fact that sterilizing men is a more simple procedure, the government still chose to focus on sterilizing women instead.[20][21] Son of the Prime Minister at the time Indira Gandhi, Sanjay Gandhi was largely blamed for what turned out to be a failed program.[22] A strong backlash against any initiative associated with family planning followed the highly controversial program, which continues into the 21st century.[23]


River bank houses in Puning
China's nominal GDP trend from 1952 to 2005. Note the rapid increase since reform in the late 1970s.

In 1978, Chinese authorities became concerned with the possibility of a baby boom that the country could not handle, and they initialized the one-child policy. In order to effectively deal with the complex issues surrounding childbirth, the Chinese government placed great emphasis on family planning. Because this was such an important matter, the government thought it needed to be standardized, and so to this end laws were introduced in 2002.[24] These laws uphold the basic tenets of what was previously put into practice, outlining the rights of the individuals and outlining what the Chinese government can and cannot do to enforce policy.

However, recently accusations have been raised from groups such as Amnesty International, who have claimed that practices of compulsory sterilization have been occurring for people who have already reached their one child quota. These practices run contrary to the stated principles of the law, and seem to differ on a local level. An especially egregious example, according to Amnesty International, has been occurring in Puning City, Guangdong Province. The stated goal of the sterilization drive in this city in China was to meet with family planning targets that were outlined by the government in the Population and Family Planning Law of 2002. This drive, also known as the Iron Fist Campaign, also is said to have used coercive methods in order to ensure that close to 10,000 women were sterilized, including detaining elderly family members.[24]

The Chinese government does not seem to be unaware of these discrepancies in policy implementation on a local level. For example, The National Population and Family Planning Commission put forth in a statement that, “Some persons concerned in a few counties and townships of Linyi did commit practices that violated law and infringed upon legitimate rights and interests of citizens while conducting family planning work.” This statement comes in reference to some charges of forced sterilization and abortions in Linyi city of Shandong Province.[25] However, it remains unclear to what extent the government has prosecuted or disciplined the officials in charge of family planning in the country.


In Peru, President Alberto Fujimori (in office from 1990–2000) has been accused of genocide and crimes against humanity as a result of a sterilization program put in place by his administration.[26] Peru put in place a program of forced sterilizations against indigenous people (essentially the Quechuas and the Aymaras), in the name of a "public health plan", presented July 28, 1995. The plan was principally financed using funds from USAID (36 million dollars), the Nippon Foundation, and later, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).[27] On September 9, 1995, Fujimori presented a Bill that would revise the "General Law of Population", in order to allow sterilization. Several contraceptive methods were also legalized, all measures that were strongly opposed by the Roman Catholic Church, as well as the Catholic organization Opus Dei. In February 1996, the World Health Organization (WHO) itself congratulated Fujimori for his plan to control demographic growth.[27]

On February 25, 1998, a representative for USAID testified before the U.S. government's House International Relations Committee, to address controversy surrounding Peru's program. He indicated that the government of Peru was making important changes to the program, in order to:

In September 2001, Minister of Health Luis Solari launched a special commission into the activities of the Voluntary Surgical Contraception, initiating a Parliamentary commission tasked with inquiring into the "irregularities" of the program, and to put it on an acceptable footing. In July 2002, its Final Report ordered by the Minister of Health revealed that between 1995 and 2000, 331,600 women were sterilized, while 25,590 men submitted to vasectomies.[27] The plan, which had the objective of diminishing the number of births in areas of poverty within Peru, was essentially directed at the indigenous people living in deprived areas (areas often involved in internal conflicts with the Peruvian government, as with the Shining Path guerilla group). Deputy Dora Núñez Dávila made the accusation in September 2003 that 400,000 indigenous people were sterilized during the 1990s. Documents proved that President Fujimori was informed, each month, of the number of sterilizations done, by his former Ministers of Health, Eduardo Yong Motta (1994–96), Marino Costa Bauer (1996–1999) and Alejandro Aguinaga (1999–2000).[27] A study by sociologist Giulia Tamayo, Nada Personal (in English: Nothing Personal), showed that doctors were required to meet quotas. According to Le Monde diplomatique, "tubal ligation festivals" were organized through program publicity campaigns, held in the pueblos jóvenes (in English: shantytowns). In 1996 there were, according to official statistics, 81,762 tubal ligations performed on women, with a peak being reached the following year, with 109,689 ligatures, then only 25,995 in 1998.[26]

On October 21, 2011, Peru’s Attorney General José Bardales decided to reopen an investigation into the cases, which had been halted in 2009 under the statute of limitations, after the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights ruled that Peru’s sterilization program involved crimes against humanity, which are not time-limited.[29]


In 2008, the Perm Krai ombudswoman Tatyana Margolina reported that 14 women with disabilities were subjected to compulsory medical sterilization in Ozyorskiy psychoneurological nursing home whose director was Grigory Bannikov.[30] The sterilizations were performed not on the basis mandatory court decision appropriate for them, but only on the basis of the application by the guardian Bannikov.[31] On 2 December 2010, the court has not found corpus delicti in the compulsory medical sterilizations performed by his consent.[30] The order by the health minister of the Russian Federation that issued in 1993 and neatly determined the procedure of forced abortion and sterilization of women with disabilities was repealed by the head of Ministry of Health and Social Development of the Russian Federation Tatyana Golikova in 2009.[30] Therefore, now women can be subjected to compulsory sterilization without court decision, according to Tatyana Margolina.[30] In Russia, one of the supporters of preventive eugenics is the president of the Independent Psychiatric Association of Russia Yuri Savenko, who justifies forced sterilization of women, which is practiced in Moscow psychoneurological nursing homes, and states that “one needs a more strictly adjusted and open control for the practice of preventive eugenics, which, in itself, is, in its turn, justifiable.”[32]


Jan Guillou brought up eugenics in the TV-program Rekordmagazinet in the 1980s, at which time this was still a topic largely unknown to the people, but it wasn't until 1997, following the publication of articles by Maciej Zaremba in the Dagens Nyheter daily, widespread attention was given to the fact that Sweden once operated a strong sterilization program, which was active primarily from the mid-1930s until the 1970s. A governmental commission was set up, and finished its inquiry in 2000.[citation needed]

The eugenistic legislation was enacted in 1934 and was formally abolished in 1976. According to the 2000 governmental report, 21,000 were estimated to have been forcibly sterilized, 6,000 were coerced into a 'voluntary' sterilization while the nature of a further 4,000 cases could not be determined.[33] However, the 40,000 or so socio-medical cases are contested, and Zaremba and others argue that they were more in the interest of society than individual women. The Swedish state subsequently paid out damages to victims who contacted the authorities and asked for compensation.


In October 1999, Margrith von Felten suggested to the National Council of Switzerland in the form of a general proposal to adopt legal regulations that would enable reparation for persons sterilized against their will. According to the proposal, reparation was to be provided to persons who had undergone the intervention without their consent or who had consented to sterilization under coercion.[citation needed] According to Margrith von Felten:

The history of eugenics in Switzerland remains insufficiently explored. Research programmes are in progress. However, individual studies and facts are already available. For example:

The report of the Institute for the History of Medicine and Public Health "Mental Disability and Sexuality. Legal sterilization in the Vaud Canton between 1928 and 1985" points out that coercive sterilizations took place until the 1980s. The act on coercive sterilizations of the Vaud Canton was the first law of this kind in the European context.

Hans Wolfgang Maier, head of the Psychiatric Clinic in Zurich pointed out in a report from the beginning of the century that 70% to 80% of terminations were linked to sterilization by doctors. In the period from 1929 to 1931, 480 women and 15 men were sterilized in Zurich in connection with termination.

Following agreements between doctors and authorities such as the 1934 "Directive For Surgical Sterilization" of the Medical Association in Basle, eugenic indication to sterilization was recognized as admissible.

A statistical evaluation of the sterilizations performed in the Basle women's hospital between 1920 and 1934 shows a remarkable increase in sterilizations for a psychiatric indication after 1929 and a steep increase in 1934, when a coercive sterilization act came into effect in nearby National Socialist Germany.

A study by the Swiss Nursing School in Zurich, published in 1991, documents that 24 mentally-disabled women aged between 17 and 25 years were sterilized between 1980 and 1987. Of these 24 sterilizations, just one took place at the young woman's request.

Having evaluated sources primarily from the 1930s (psychiatric files, official directives, court files, etc.), historians have documented that the requirement for free consent to sterilization was in most of cases not satisfied. Authorities obtained the "consent" required by the law partly by persuasion, and partly by enforcing it through coercion and threats. Thus the recipients of social benefits were threatened with removal of the benefits, women were exposed to a choice between placement in an institution or sterilization, and abortions were permitted only when women simultaneously consented to sterilization.

More than fifty years after ending the National Socialist dictatorship in Germany, in which racial murder, euthanasia and coerced sterilizations belonged to the political programme, it is clear that eugenics, with its idea of "life unworthy of life" and "racial purity" permeated even democratic countries. The idea that a "healthy nation" should be achieved through targeted medical/social measures was designed and politically implemented in many European countries and in the U.S.A in the first half of this century. It is a policy incomparable with the inconceivable horrors of the Nazi rule; yet it is clear that authorities and the medical community were guilty of the methods and measures applied, i.e. coerced sterilizations, prohibitions of marriages and child removals – serious violations of human rights.[citation needed]

Switzerland refused, however, to vote a reparations Act.[citation needed]

United States[edit]

A poster from a 1921 eugenics conference displays the U.S. states that had implemented sterilization legislation by then

The United States was the first country to concertedly undertake compulsory sterilization programs for the purpose of eugenics.[34] The heads of the program were avid believers in eugenics and frequently argued for their program. It was shut down due to ethical problems. The principal targets of the American program were the intellectually disabled and the mentally ill, but also targeted under many state laws were the deaf, the blind, people with epilepsy, and the physically deformed. According to the activist Angela Davis, Native Americans, as well as African-American women[35] were sterilized against their will in many states, often without their knowledge while they were in a hospital for other reasons (e.g. childbirth). Other Native American activists such as Dr. Pinkerman concluded some 25,000 Native American women were forcibly sterilized against their will, although others have claimed these numbers were exaggerated.[36]

Some sterilizations took place in prisons and other penal institutions, targeting criminality, but they were in the relative minority.[37] In the end, over 65,000 individuals were sterilized in 33 states under state compulsory sterilization programs in the United States.[38][39]

The first state to introduce a compulsory sterilization bill was Michigan, in 1897, but the proposed law failed to garner enough votes by legislators to be adopted. Eight years later Pennsylvania's state legislators passed a sterilization bill that was vetoed by the governor. Indiana became the first state to enact sterilization legislation in 1907,[40] followed closely by California and Washington in 1909. Sterilization rates across the country were relatively low (California being the sole exception) until the 1927 Supreme Court case Buck v. Bell which legitimized the forced sterilization of patients at a Virginia home for the intellectually disabled. The number of sterilizations performed per year increased until another Supreme Court case, Skinner v. Oklahoma, 1942, complicated the legal situation by ruling against sterilization of criminals if the equal protection clause of the constitution was violated. That is, if sterilization was to be performed, then it could not exempt white-collar criminals.[41]

Most sterilization laws could be divided into three main categories of motivations: eugenic (concerned with heredity), therapeutic (based on the idea that sterilization could cure one of sexual traits such as masturbation or pedophilia), or punitive (as a punishment for criminals), though of course these motivations could be combined in practice and theory (sterilization of criminals could be both punitive and eugenic, for example). Buck v. Bell asserted only that eugenic sterilization was constitutional, whereas Skinner v. Oklahoma ruled specifically against punitive sterilization. Most operations only worked to prevent reproduction (such as severing the vas deferens in males), though some states (Oregon and North Dakota in particular) had laws which called for the use of castration. In general, most sterilizations were performed under eugenic statutes, in state-run psychiatric hospitals and homes for the mentally disabled.[42] There was never a federal sterilization statute, though eugenicist Harry H. Laughlin, whose state-level "Model Eugenical Sterilization Law" was the basis of the statute affirmed in Buck v. Bell, proposed the structure of one in 1922.[43]

After World War II, public opinion towards eugenics and sterilization programs became more negative in the light of the connection with the genocidal policies of Nazi Germany, though a significant number of sterilizations continued in a few states until the late 1960s. The Oregon Board of Eugenics, later renamed the Board of Social Protection, existed until 1983,[44] with the last forcible sterilization occurring in 1981.[45] The U.S. commonwealth Puerto Rico had a sterilization program as well. Some states continued to have sterilization laws on the books for much longer after that, though they were rarely if ever used. California sterilized more than any other state by a wide margin, and was responsible for over a third of all sterilization operations. Information about the California sterilization program was produced into book form and widely disseminated by eugenicists E.S. Gosney and Paul B. Popenoe, which was said by the government of Adolf Hitler to be of key importance in proving that large-scale compulsory sterilization programs were feasible.[46] In recent years, the governors of many states have made public apologies for their past programs beginning with Virginia and followed by Oregon[44] and California. None have offered to compensate those sterilized, however, citing that few are likely still living (and would of course have no affected offspring) and that inadequate records remain by which to verify them. At least one compensation case, Poe v. Lynchburg Training School & Hospital (1981), was filed in the courts on the grounds that the sterilization law was unconstitutional. It was rejected because the law was no longer in effect at the time of the filing. However, the petitioners were granted some compensation as the stipulations of the law itself, which required informing the patients about their operations, had not been carried out in many cases.

The 27 states where sterilization laws remained on the books (though not all were still in use) in 1956 were: Arizona, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin.[47]

As of January 2011, discussions were underway regarding compensation for the victims of forced sterilization under the authorization of the Eugenics Board of North Carolina. Governor Bev Perdue formed the NC Justice for Sterilization Victims Foundation in 2010 in order "to provide justice and compensate victims who were forcibly sterilized by the State of North Carolina".[48] As of April 13, 2012, victims of forced sterilization in North Carolina have yet to be compensated.[49] Governor Bev Perdue recommended providing each living victim with $50,000. Eventually, in 2013 North Carolina announced that it would spend $10 million beginning in June 2015 to compensate men and women who were sterilized in the state's eugenics program; North Carolina sterilized 7,600 people from 1929 to 1974 who were deemed socially or mentally unfit.[50]

Discussions have yet to begin regarding compensation for victims of forced sterilization in other states. Other countries have yet to compensate victims of forced sterilization.


According to reports, as of 2012, forced and coerced sterilization are current Government policy in Uzbekistan for women with two or three children as a means of forcing population control and to improve maternal mortality rates.[3][51][52] In November 2007, a report by the United Nations Committee Against Torture reported that "the large number of cases of forced sterilization and removal of reproductive organs of women at reproductive age after their first or second pregnancy indicate that the Uzbek government is trying to control the birth rate in the country" and noted that such actions were not against the national Criminal Code [53] in response to which the Uzbek delegation to the associated conference was "puzzled by the suggestion of forced sterilization, and could not see how this could be enforced."[54]

Reports of forced sterilizations, hysterectomies and IUD insertions first emerged in 2005,[3][51][52][55] although it is reported that the practice originated in the late 1990s,[56] with reports of a secret decree dating from 2000.[55] The current policy was allegedly instituted by Islam Karimov under Presidential Decree PP-1096, "on additional measures to protect the health of the mother and child, the formation of a healthy generation"[57] which came into force in 2009.[58] In 2005 Deputy Health Minister Assomidin Ismoilov confirmed that doctors in Uzbekistan were being held responsible for increased birth rates.[55]

Based on a report by journalist Natalia Antelava, doctors reported that the Ministry of Health told doctors they must perform surgical sterilizations on women. One doctor reported, “It's ruling number 1098 and it says that after two children, in some areas after three, a woman should be sterilized.”[59] In 2010, the Ministry of Health passed a decree stating all clinics in Uzbekistan should have sterilization equipment ready for use. The same report also states that sterilization is to be done on a voluntary basis with the informed consent of the patient.[59] In the 2010 Human Rights Report of Uzbekistan, there were many reports of forced sterilization of women along with allegations of the government pressuring doctors to sterilize women in order to control the population.[60] Doctors also reported to Antelava that there are quotas they must reach every month on how many women they need to sterilize. These orders are passed on to them through their bosses and, allegedly, from the government.[59]

On May 15, 2012, during a meeting with the Russian president Vladimir Putin in Moscow the Uzbek president Islam Karimov said: "we are doing everything in our hands to make sure that the population growth rate [in Uzbekistan] does not exceed 1.2-1.3"[61] The Uzbek version of RFE/RL reported that with this statement Karimov indirectly admitted that forced sterilization of women is indeed taking place in Uzbekistan.[61] The main Uzbek television channel, O'zbekiston, cut out Karimov's statement about the population growth rate while broadcasting his conversation with Putin.[61]

Puerto Rico[edit]

The United States, the Puerto Rican government, and the medical community began a program in 1937 for the mass sterilization of women in Puerto Rico. In 1917, Puerto Ricans became United States citizens and the United States Congress began controlling a large amount of life in Puerto Rico.[citation needed]

The Puerto Rican government and population was suffering from economic problems, high unemployment rate, and poverty during the 1920s. The United States blamed overpopulation for these problems.[62] Contraception was illegal in the Puerto Rican colony which was largely due to the main religion of Puerto Rico: Catholicism. The Catholic Church teachings state that contraception and sterilization are sins against nature. Therefore, any form of contraception was illegal in Puerto Rico before the late 1930s.[63] In 1937, the United States made contraceptives legal, initiating their plan for population control.[64]

The United States began governing Puerto Rico in 1898 and were immediately aware of the large, and ever increasing, population. The U.S. began to worry about overpopulation of the small island that could potentially lead to a major decline socially and economically. Therefore, the U.S. began to enforce public policies in order to control the rapidly increasing population.[65]

By 1965, demographer Harriet Presser reported, 34% of Puerto Rican mothers ages 20–49 had been sterilized, the highest rate ever documented for a population.[66] Sterilization was so common that Puerto Rican women labeled it "la operación", or the operation.[67] Many Puerto Rican women also began having "la operacion" due to healthcare worker visits whom advocated sterilization and already sterilized women whom were receiving favoritism in the work industry after their sterilization.[65] The government continued with their plan as stated in a report dated November 1973. The report, entitled "Opportunities for Education, Employment, and Training", was written by an economic policy group backed by the governor of Puerto Rico. This report explains alternatives for decreasing the Puerto Rican working class and a high unemployment rate was noted in the report as Puerto Rico's main problem.[68]

A private organization opened twenty-three birth control clinics in 1937 and a bill was signed eliminating the laws making the advertisement of contraceptives and pregnancy prevention services a felony. Another 160 private and public birth control clinics were opened after another bill was signed authorizing the "Commissioner of Health in Puerto Rico to regulate the teaching and dissemination of eugenic principles, including contraception, to health centers and maternal hospitals".[62] Soon after, the United States government passed Law #136 which made sterilization legal for other than strictly medical reasons and advocated picking out the "unfit".[62]

In addition to the forced sterilization Puerto Rican women endured, they were also used as test subjects for birth control pills. In 1954 and 1955, two researchers, Gregory Pincus and John Rock, chose Puerto Rico as the site for large-scale human trials for an oral contraceptive. They had already achieved success in the human trials in Boston; however, in order to get the oral contraceptive in the market, they would need a larger trial. During that time, anti-birth control laws were non-existent in Puerto Rico and many birth control clinics were already riddled everywhere on the island. Also, with Puerto Rico being one of the most densely populated areas in the world during the 1950s, U.S. officials greatly supported birth control as a way to control the growing population.[69]

Many women were eager to try the new drug that helped prevent pregnancy and the large population on the small island made it easier for Pincus and Rock to monitor the trials. Another factor in choosing Puerto Rican women as test subjects was the fact that they were all poor and uneducated. If uneducated women in Puerto Rico could follow the regimen for the oral contraceptive then an educated woman somewhere else in the world would be able to as well. Also, the success of the trials would prove that the use of the oral contraceptives would not be too complicated for women to use in other developing nations as well as the slums of some U.S. cities.[69]

The drug trials began in Rio Piedras in April 1965. The maximum amount of people needed immediately reached capacity once the trials began. Pincus and Rock immediately opened more trial locations. Rock chose a high dose of synthetic oral progesterone, Enovid, which was G.D Searle's name brand, the pharmaceutical company providing the drug. Later, synthetic estrogen was added to the pill due to its efficacy. Dr. Edris Rice-Wray, the medical director of Puerto Rico Family Planning Association and a Puerto Rico Medical School faculty member, headed the trials. She reported 100% efficacy rate of the pills a year after the study began but also reported "that 17% of the women in the study complained of nausea, dizziness, headaches, stomach pain and vomiting".[69] However, Pincus and Rock did not listen to Dr. Rice-Wray and the Pill was placed on the market.

The Puerto Rican women involved in the study were not told they were part of a drug trial. Researchers informed them that they would be receiving a drug that prevented pregnancy. They were not informed of the dangerous side effects that may occur or that taking the pill was experimental. Pincus, Rock, and the researchers and doctors involved in the drug trials have since been "accused of deceit, colonialism and the exploitation of poor women of color".[69]

Other countries[edit]

Eugenics programs including forced sterilization existed in most Northern European countries, as well as other more or less Protestant countries. Some programs, such as Canada's and Sweden's, lasted well into the 1970s.[citation needed] Other countries that had notably active sterilisation programmes include Denmark, Norway, Finland,[70] Estonia, Switzerland, Iceland, and some countries in Latin America (including Panama).[citation needed] In the United Kingdom, Home Secretary Winston Churchill was a noted advocate, and his successor Reginald McKenna introduced a bill that included forced sterilisation. Writer G. K. Chesterton led a successful effort to defeat that clause of the 1913 Mental Deficiency Act.[71]

According to some testimonies,[citation needed] the Soviet Union allegedly imposed forced sterilisation on female workers deported from Romania to Soviet labour camps. This is said[by whom?] to have occurred after World War II, when Romania was supposed to supply a reconstruction workforce (according to the armistice convention).[72] However, no court decisions or formal investigations of these allegations are known for the moment.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ As quoted by Guy Horton in Dying Alive - A Legal Assessment of Human Rights Violations in Burma April 2005, co-Funded by The Netherlands Ministry for Development Co-Operation. See section "12.52 Crimes against humanity", Page 201. He references RSICC/C, Vol. 1 p. 360
  2. ^ "Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court". Retrieved 2012-07-13. 
  3. ^ a b c BBC News: Uzbekistan's policy of secretly sterilizing women BBC, published 2012-04-12, accessed 2012-04-12
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  6. ^ a b Essack, Zaynab; Strode, Ann (2012). "'I feel like half a woman all the time': The impacts of coerced and forced sterilisations on HIV-positive women in South Africa". Agenda: Empowering women for gender equity 26 (12): 24–34. doi:10.1080/10130950.2012.708583. ISSN 1013-0950. 
  7. ^ Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) (November 9, 1999). "Alberta Apologizes for Forced Sterilization". Retrieved June 19, 2013. 
  8. ^ Sterilized Roma accuse Czechs, BBC, March 12, 2007
  9. ^ For Gypsies, Eugenics is a Modern Problem - Czech Practice Dates to Soviet Era, Newsdesk, June 12, 2006
  10. ^ Final Statement of the Public Defender of Rights in the Matter of Sterilisations Performed in Contravention of the Law and Proposed Remedial Measures, Czech government, 2005
  11. ^ Robert Proctor, Racial hygiene: Medicine under the Nazis (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1988), and Gisela Bock, "Nazi sterilization and reproductive policies" in Dieter Kuntz, ed., Deadly medicine: creating the master race (Washington, D.C.: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, 2004).
  12. ^ |"The connection between American eugenics and Nazi Germany" James Watson speaks about Nazi eugenics
  13. ^ Ian Kershaw, Hitler: A Profile in Power, Chapter VI, first section (London, 1991, rev. 2001)
  14. ^ a b "国民優生法" [The Eugenic Protection Law]. "The 107th law that Japanese Government promulgated in 1940 (国民優生法) 第二条 本法ニ於テ優生手術ト称スルハ生殖ヲ不能ナラシムル手術又ハ処置ニシテ命令ヲ以テ定ムルモノヲ謂フ" 
  15. ^ Kimura, Rihito (1991). "Jurisprudence in Genetics". In Srám, R. J.; Bulyzhenkov, V.; Prilipko, L. et al. Ethical Issues of Molecular Genetics in Psychiatry. Springer-Verlag. pp. 157–166. 
  16. ^ "Hansen's sanitarium were houses of horrors". The Japan Times. 2005-01-28. , Sato, Hajime (February 2002). "Abolition of leprosy isolation policy in Japan: policy termination through leadership". Policy Studies Journal 30 (1): 29–46. doi:10.1111/j.1541-0072.2002.tb02126.x. 
  17. ^ "Korean Hansens patients seek redress". The Japan Times. 2004-02-26. 
  18. ^ 「優生問題を考える(四)──国民優生法と優生保護法 Matsubara Yoko - Research of Eugenics problem (Professor of Ritsumeikan University, researcher of Gender-blind and Eugenics.)
  19. ^ "SOSHIREN / 資料・法律−優生保護法". Retrieved 2012-07-13. 
  20. ^ a b Relying on Hard and Soft Sells India Pushes Sterilization, New York Times, June 22, 2011.
  21. ^ a b For Sterilization Target is Women, New York Times, November 7, 2003.
  22. ^ "The Indira enigma". Frontline. May 11, 2001. Retrieved July 28, 2006. 
  23. ^ "Male involvement and contraceptive methods for men". Frontline. September 1996. Retrieved July 28, 2006. 
  24. ^ a b "Thousands at risk of forced sterilization in China". Amnesty International. April 22, 2010. Retrieved April 9, 2012. 
  25. ^ "China acts on forced abortion". BBC. September 20, 2005. Retrieved April 9, 2012. 
  26. ^ a b "Mass sterilization scandal shocks Peru". BBC News. July 24, 2002. Retrieved April 30, 2006. 
  27. ^ a b c d Stérilisations forcées des Indiennes du Pérou, Le Monde diplomatique, May 2004
  28. ^ "USAID Testimony: House International Relations Committee, Subcommittee on International Operations and Human Rights, 2/25/98". USAID. Retrieved August 23, 2011. 
  29. ^ Thousands of Forced Sterilization Cases Reopened in Peru Impunity Watch, published November 14, 2011
  30. ^ a b c d (Russian) Сизова, Марина (2 February 2011). "Пельмешки из психушки". Пермские новости. Retrieved 25 April 2012. 
  31. ^ (Russian) Богданов, Владимир (20 July 2010). "Непорочное сиротство: Девушек-воспитанниц интерната директор распорядился принудительно стерилизовать". Rossiyskaya Gazeta - Федеральный выпуск № 5237 (158). Retrieved 25 April 2012. 
  32. ^ (Russian) "Лишённые наследства. Законно ли запрещают рожать пациенткам психоневрологических интернатов?". Novaya Gazeta. 12 December 2005. Retrieved 23 April 2012.  Савенко: «…Необходим более строго выверенный и открытый контроль за практикой предупредительной евгеники, которая сама по себе, в свою очередь, оправданна».
  33. ^ Steriliseringsfrågan i Sverige 1935 - 1975, SOU 2000:20, in Swedish with an English summary.
  34. ^ Eugenics And Its Relevance To Contemporary Health Care, Rachel Iredale, Nursing Ethics 2000 7 (3), 0969-7330(00)NE346OA © 2000 Arnold
  35. ^ Angela Davis, Women, Race and Class (1981) ISBN 0-394-71351-6
  36. ^ Cecil Adams (2002-03-22). "Were 40% of Native American women forcibly sterilized in the 1970s?". The Straight Dope. Retrieved 2013-10-28. 
  37. ^ Interview with Alexandra Minna Stern, Ph.D. of University of Michigan in Spanish newspaper El País published on 12 Julz 2013 Los mexicanos, principales víctimas de la esterilización forzosa en California
  38. ^ An overview of U.S. eugenics and sterilization is in ..
  39. ^ Kevles, Daniel (April 12, 1985). In the name of eugenics: Genetics and the uses of human heredity (1st ed.). New York: Knopf. ISBN 0-394-50702-9. 
  40. ^ The Indiana Supreme Court overturned the law in 1921 in "Williams et al v. Smith, 131 NE 2 (Ind.), 1921". Northeastern Reporter 131: 2. Archived from the original on 2008-10-01. 
  41. ^ On the legal history of eugenic sterilization in the U.S., see Lombardo, Paul. "Eugenic Sterilization Laws". Eugenics Archive. 
  42. ^ Philip Reilly, The surgical solution: a history of involuntary sterilization in the United States (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1991).
  43. ^ Wallerstein, Alex. "Harry Laughlin's 'Model Eugenical Sterilization Law'". Archived from the original on 2011-07-09. 
  44. ^ a b Governor John Kitzhaber (December 2, 2002). "Proclamation of Human Rights Day, and apology for Oregon's forced sterilization of institutionalized patients". 
  45. ^ Julie Sullivan. (2002). "State will admit sterilization past", Portland Oregonian, November 15, 2002. (Mirrored in Eugene Register-Guard, November 16, 2002, at Google News.)
  46. ^ On California sterilizations and their connection to the Nazi program, see: Stefan Kühl, The Nazi connection: Eugenics, American racism, and German National Socialism (New York: Oxford University Press, 1994); Alexandra Stern, Eugenic nation: faults and frontiers of better breeding in modern America (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005); and Wendy Kline, Building a better race: gender, sexuality, and eugenics from the turn of the century to the baby boom (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001).
  47. ^ "Note that this is not a comprehensive list of states which had sterilization laws on the books at any given time (some states had their laws overturned in courts very early on) nor an indication of when states' laws were active (some ceased to be used much earlier)". Retrieved 2012-07-13. 
  48. ^ "Office for Justice for Sterilization Victims". North Carolina Department of Administration. 
  49. ^ JOURNALNOW STAFF (April 13, 2012). Editorial: Planners of sterilization compensation should make process fast, smooth. Winston-Salem Journal. 
  50. ^ "North Carolina offers $10 million for victims of forced-sterilization program". July 27, 2013. Retrieved August 3, 2013. 
  51. ^ a b Crossing Continents: Forced Sterilization in Uzbekistan BBC, published 2012-04-12, accessed 2012-04-12
  52. ^ a b Uzbeks Face Forced Sterilization The Moscow Times published 2010-03-10, accessed 2012-04-12
  53. ^ Shadow Report: UN Committee Against Torture United Nations, authors Rapid Response Group and OMCT, published November 2007, accessed 2012-04-12
  54. ^ Press Release: Committee Against Torture Hears Response of Uzbekistan United Nations, published 2007-10-12, accessed 2012-04-12
  55. ^ a b c Birth Control by Decree in Uzbekistan IWPR Institute for War & Peace Reporting, published 2005-11-18, accessed 2012-04-12
  56. ^ Uzbek women accuse state of mass sterilizations The Independent, published 2010-07-17, accessed 2012-04-12
  57. ^ Uzbekistan: Presidential Decree on Birth Rate Leads to Increased Sterilization | published 2011-11-14, accessed 2012-04-12
  58. ^ Our Kids: EU Parliamentarians Applaud MCH Project in Uzbekistan, published 2010-10-28, accessed 2012-04-12
  59. ^ a b c Hackel, Joyce (April 12, 2012). "Doctors in Uzbekistan Say Government Forcibly Sterilizing Women". PRI's The World. 
  60. ^ Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (April 8, 2011). "2010 Human Rights Report: Uzbekistan". 2010 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices. United States Department of State. 
  61. ^ a b c ""Akhborot" censors Karimov". RFE/RL's Uzbek Service. 17 May 2012. Retrieved 17 May 2012. 
  62. ^ a b c Hoerlein, Sara (2001). "Female Sterilization in Puerto Rico". Retrieved 25 April 2012. 
  63. ^ Maguire, Daniel. "The Moderate Roman Catholic Position on Contraception and Abortion". Retrieved 25 April 2012. 
  64. ^ Melanie, Charlotte (October 15, 2010). "U.S. eugenics policy evident in Puerto Rico as well as Guatemala". 
  65. ^ a b Krase, Katherine (January/February 1996). "The Politics of Women's Health: Sterilization Abuse". Newsletter of the National Women’s Health Network. Retrieved 25 April 2012. 
  66. ^ Presser, Harriet B. (November 1969). "The Role of Sterilization in Controlling Puerto Rican Fertility". Population Studies 23 (3): 343–361. PMID 22073953. 
  67. ^ Louis de Malave, Florita (May 1999). "Sterilizayion of Puerto Rican Women: A Selected, Partially Annotated Bibliography.". Retrieved 25 April 2012. 
  68. ^ Committee for Puerto Rican Decolonization. "35% of Puerto Rican Women Sterilized". Chicago Women's Liberation Union Archive. University of Illinois at Chicago. Retrieved 2013-12-10. 
  69. ^ a b c d "People and Events: The Puerto Rico Pill Trials". American Experience: The Pill. PBS. 2001. 
  70. ^ Gunnar Broberg and Nils Roll-Hansen, eds., Eugenics And the Welfare State: Sterilization Policy in Denmark, Sweden, Norway, and Finland (Michigan State University Press, 2005).
  71. ^ Gilbert, Martin. Churchill and Eugenics
  72. ^ A link to the testimony of such a deportee (in Romanian).

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]