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Ending Forced Sterilisation of Women and Girls with Disabilities

On the 5th December EUD’s staff and board members participated at the public hearing organised by the European Disability Forum (EDF) on “Ending Forced Sterilisation of Women and Girls with Disabilities,” which took place at the European Parliament. It was a side event to the 4th European Parliament of Persons with Disabilities, which took place the next day.

Forced sterilisation of women and girls with disabilities is one of the most vulnerable situations faced by many women and girl with disabilities in the EU. Such practice deprives women and girls with disabilities from their dignity and power over their sexual and reproductive rights and must be stopped. Throughout the hearing it was highlighted that it is absolutely crucial to raise awareness on ending forced sterilisation of women and girls with disabilities and prohibit of all forms of such practice against women girls with disabilities.

The public hearing was co-hosted by MEP Soraya Post (Swedish Feminist Initiative, S&D Group) and EDF Vice-President, Ana Peláez Narváez. Ana Peláez Narváez presented the joint report on ending forced sterilisation of women and girls with disabilities prepared by FEMI Women Foundation and the EDF. EUD participated in several meetings with the EDF during the process of drafting the report and provided with input to the report in order to make sure that the deaf perspective is visible. The report contains one testimony of a deaf woman who was sterilised without her consent or knowledge – this aims at raising awareness that such practice cannot be tolerated and must be prohibited since it causes irreparable consequences and infringes women’s rights. The report will be soon available on EDF’s website.

Jill Allen King a blind woman, who is now 77 years old, experienced forced sterilisation. Unfortunately, she was unable to attend the public hearing. However her testimony was read by the Board member of the European Network on Independent Living (ENIL), Zara Todd. Jill Allen King was sterilised without her consent, because “the doctors at the hospital did not think a blind person could or should have a child”. Jill Allen King believes “that it was very wrong to sterilise her’’ and she is ‘’shocked that forced sterilisation takes place in other parts of the world.”

After the testimony, Louiza Chalal, Member of the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (UN CEDAW) took floor. Ms Chalal emphasised that the CEDAW Committee remains concerned about the forced sterilisation of women and girls with disabilities, which is still often tolerated by the society, even though it is considered as a crime against humanity according to the Rome Statute and constitutes a serious and grave violation of human rights of physical integrity and sexual and reproductive health rights. Ms Chalal highlighted that women with disabilities still face multiple barriers to enjoy their sexual and reproductive rights and practices constituting such barriers must be removed. According to Ms Chalal, Member states to CRPD and CEDAW must “abolish all forced sterilisation of women and girls with disabilities.”

Catalina Devandas Aguilar, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities addressed the audience through a video message. Ms Devandas Aguilar presented the report which calls UN General Assembly for the attention on this issue. The report focuses on the lack of access for women for their sexual and reproductive rights and reveals that forced sterilisation is a specific form of grave human right’s violation that is gender based. Ms Devandas Aguilar emphasised that international community fails to address the issue and more action must take place. You can find the report here.

Several members of the European Parliament took floor. MEP Soraya Post brought the testimony of her mother, a Roma woman, who underwent a procedure and was forced to abort at the 7th month of pregnancy. Speaking from a very personal perspective on forced sterilisation, Soraya Post highlighted that no woman should experience forced sterilisation. MEP Adam Kósa, as co-chair of the Disability Intergroup of the European Parliament, stated that is absolutely unacceptable to accept forced sterilisation of women with disabilities as a normal practice and we need to stand up together against forced sterilisation. MEP Julie Ward stated that we must speak out against these unacceptable violations of human dignity.

During the hearing, there was also an opportunity for exchange of views from different women’s rights organisations and civil society, including European Women’s LobbyFundamental Rights AgencyInternational Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex AssociationInclusion Europe and Mental Health Europe. On behalf of EUD and EUD’s Working group on Gender Equality, Louise ‘Lolo’ Danielsson took the floor to present the deaf perspective. Louise ‘Lolo’ Danielsson provided with real life examples how deaf women were sterilised without giving prior consent and how much this affected them later in their lives. Louise ‘Lolo’ Danielsson emphasised that such horrible practices cannot remain invisible and we must share such information this way ensuring that forced sterilisation of women with disabilities is understood as intolerable practice. We must use UN CRPD and lobby to end forced sterilisation.

To sum up the event, Luminita Călădaraş, on behalf of EDF Women’s Committee, read the declaration on ending forced sterilisation of all women with disabilities and stated that “forced sterilisation and all forms of violence against women must stop.”

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