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Sterilization of women in Puerto Rico

I read an article about women being sterilized. This article was not written 50 or so years ago, this article was in March of 2011 and it was from Indore where women are being coerced by healthcare programs instead of given proper healthcare education and services. The government has found a way to bribe these women to be sterilized taking away their right to reproduce, build families and the right to proper pre-natal and post-natal care. After so many years of fighting for womens rights. Celebrating 100 years of advancement and growth from the very first International womens History Day to the 100th, we still fight for simple things as basic healthcare, education and choice.

While reading this article it reminded me of something that happened on my Island of Puerto Rico in the late 1930's and early 1940's to women in an effort to curb the population growth called La Operacion / The Operation. Puerto Rico, under the United States since 1898 when it was ceded by Spain, has long been a laboratory for U.S. initiated social, economic and cultural policies and testings on humans. Beginning in the late thirties, privately funded foundations based in the United States, and later, the Puerto Rican government, with U.S. government funds, have promoted sterilization of women as a way of limiting population growth. In the forties, just when women were joining the work force in large numbers as industrialization opened up job opportunities, sterilizations were provided at minimal or no cost. While women suffered from lack of safe, legal abortion services, other methods of contraception, day care services, and health care services, they were offered sterilization instead of education.

The results of deliberate policies, more concerned with curbing population than with meeting women's and children's needs, were high regret rates among the unprecedented nearly forty percent of women who by 1968 were sterilized. More than one third of women surveyed did not know sterilizations were permanent! Many approached sterilization decisions from mistaken notions that sterilization would improve their health, sexual life or marriage relationship. Many found depression, complications of surgery and abandonment by husbands as unexpected results.

The facts are that Puerto Rico's problems were not solved by efforts at population control. Puerto Rican women and men are now embattled to prevent further spread of the HIV epidemic (an incidence second only to Washington, DC), the epidemics of violence, substance abuse and unemployment. Today few illusions exist that population control policies will solve the island's environmental, economic or social problems. Women still struggle for family planning, safe abortions and health care, but resist pressures to end their reproductive lives prematurely.

This just goes to show that women from around the world really do have so much more in common regardless of their cultural or religious background. Keep sharing your voice and love for womens rights and advancment.

Article in conjunction with Committee on Women,Population, and the Environment ....


Nusrat Ara's picture

It is really sad that so

It is really sad that so little has changed over the overs . We have miles and miles to go.



ArtByMia's picture

A long road

Yes Nusrat,

All though we have come a long way and have made some changes and growth in eqality for women we have a much longer road to treck through. We ... the womens movement do not advance as fast as the mens and therefore show results as a slower pace. I have faith in all of the women in all of the countries that one day you will see it. Proof of that happening was when i sttended the Women in the World summit 2011 in NYC and witnessed all the women and organizations that have developed strong foundations for women. It was quite inspiring. As we walk we must talk and show them how its done.

Nusrat, you have been a leader to many and i applaude you for that.

Thank you and be safe.

amiesissoho's picture

Slow but sure


Change is very slow for women because it has to do with education, empowerment and dismantling patriarchy. But it is coming, with education and awareness, the next generation of women would move at a faster pace to free themselves.

Your comments are valid, the conditions of women cut across cultural boundaries.



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