Sterilization is not the answer
Published: Sunday, May 20, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, May 23, 2012 13:05
The arrival of Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng in the U.S. on Saturday signifies a victory over China’s oppressive regime that is riddled with violations of human rights. Unfortunately, the problem is far from over. Guangcheng’s valor on speaking out about China’s deplorable sterilization practices should be commended, but the public should not lose sight of the fact that forced sterilization is a global problem. The United States is no exception.
According to the Los Angeles Times, between 1929 and 1974, close to 7,600 people were sterilized by order of North Carolina’s Eugenics Board, 85 percent of whom were women, some girls as young as 10 years old. “They butchered me like a hog,” Elaine Riddick recalled. Riddick was a rape victim at 14 and was deemed “feebleminded” and fated for a life of “promiscuity,” The New York Times reported regarding the board members’ final ruling on Riddick’s case.
Eugenics programs were widespread; 31 states maintained programs during this time, Virginia and California both sterilizing more people than North Carolina. If our own free country is guilty of these practices, what sort of global precedent does this set?
This type of exploitation of the poor and uneducated is repulsive. Yes, the propagation of genetic disease and mental incompetence poses a threat to the success of the human race. However, if these were such determining factors, perhaps all child abusers should have been forcibly sterilized as well to prevent the repetition of this behavior. The nature vs. nurture debate must strike a balance and be acknowledged as symbiotic. As a result, victims of forced sterilization bear the mark of these demeaning accusations, as Riddick did, who went forth to prove North Carolina dead wrong.
Now, imagine this practice on a global scale. These instances are not applicable to those people in impoverished countries like India, Uzbekistan, China and South Africa, who are never deemed mentally unfit to have children. People in these countries are coerced by money because they are desperate, misinformed about the consequences and risks of a sterilization procedure, or they are forced altogether. “On paper, sterilisations should be voluntary, but women don’t really get a choice. 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 sterilisation is best for her. Or you can just do the operation,” an Uzbekistani doctor who wished to remain anonymous told the British Broadcasting Corporation.
A report by The Guardian exposed the United Kingdom’s donation to India of 166 million pounds, funding a sterilization effort operating under the meek and misleading title, the Reproductive and Child Health Program. In response, the UK’s Department for International Development condemned the practice, stating they have “taken steps to ensure that not a penny of UK aid could support it. The UK does not fund sterilisation centres anywhere.”
Outrage at this injustice needs to be at the forefront of global conversation in order to achieve any sort of headway on the issue of population control, which must not be swept under the rug any longer. Our planet is buckling under the weight of our population, the growth of which has shown no signs of decelerating. The complicated task of tackling overpopulation is a burden in itself, but it obviously needs to be addressed to prevent the horrible and explicitly unethical practices that are currently being exercised.