The Government Stole Her Uterus. And She's Not the Only One

Imagine going to the hospital to deliver your second baby. And having your uterus cut out without your consent. Sounds like a really bad medical mix up, right? But it’s not. Apparently, according to recent reports coming out of the Central Asian country of Uzbekistan, not only is it a common practice to “sterilize” women after C-sections, it’s actually mandated by the government.

Like other people who subscribe to Avaaz, a global web movement whose mission is to “organize citizens of all nations to close the gap between the world we have and the world most people everywhere want,” I got an email today from the organization that says activists “estimate tens or even hundreds of thousands of women were sterilised secretly when they went into the hospital for a routine procedure or to give birth waking up with no idea that their uterus has just been removed.”

Surely, something like that would never happen in this country, so we’re left to ask: Why would a doctor do this? And how are they getting away with it?

The answer is simple. Though horrifying: Seemingly, the government of Uzbekistan orders doctors to perform hysterectomies on women or tie their Fallopian tubes after C-sections, and coincidentally, the number of C-sections performed in the country has skyrocketed in recent years. The doctors say they are given quotas to meet, making sure that a certain number of women have been “sterilized” each month. These numbers are then reported to their bosses and the heads of the hospitals, which, in turn, report to the Ministry of Health (the equivalent of which is the Department of Health in this country; both are government agencies). Doctors have said it’s an initiative by the government to control population.

One report claims that over 80,000 women have been sterilized. That’s almost the entire population of Trenton, New Jersey.

The government denies it and calls the allegations “slanderous.” It does acknowledge that the procedure is done on a “voluntary basis with informed consent.” But the doctors who perform the procedures and the women who’ve had their uterus stolen tell a very different story.

It can be hard for us to understand how something like this can go on, but Uzbekistan is a country in which women have no voice and even fewer rights. Those who did tell their stories asked to remain anonymous out of fear of being tortured or jailed for speaking out. The BBC journalist reporting the story was barred from entering Uzbekistan.
Read a copy of the Avaaz email here

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Photo Credit: Official U.S. Navy Imagery (note: this picture does not depict the practice discussed in this post)

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