Ending forced sterilisation of women and girls with disabilities

5 December 2017
Luminita and Ana Pelaez during their interventions

Women and girls with disabilities in Europe continue to be deprived of many of their human rights, including being sterilised against their consent or knowledge, depriving them from their dignity and power over their sexual and reproductive rights.

On the occasion of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities (3 December) and as a side event to the 4th European Parliament of Persons with Disabilities (6 December 2017), EDF held a hearing on 'Ending forced sterilisation of women and girls with disabilities. The hearing took place on 5 December 2017 at the European Parliament in Brussels.

The purpose of the hearing was to raise awareness on ending forced sterilisation of women and girls with disabilities and call for the prohibition of all forms of violence against women. The event was co-hosted by MEP Soraya Post (Swedish Feminist Initiative, S&D Group) and EDF Vice-President, Ana Peláez Narváez. Ana Pelaez reminded the audience that “it is the first time that openly and publicly, we have put on the EU agenda the most vulnerable situation -forced sterilisation- faced by many women and girl with disabilities in the EU”.

MEP Soraya Post brought the testimony of her mother, a Roma woman (one of the most vulnerable minorities to this practice), who underwent such a procedure and was forced to abort at the 7th month of pregnancy. Speaking from a very personal perspective on forced sterilisation, Soraya Post stated that "it concerns also Roma women, trans and intersex people. Judges, doctors and institutions decide we're not human enough".

Other MEPs also took the floor and talked about this crucial issue. MEP Julie Ward (United Kingdom - S&D Group) stated: “The general tendency to crackdown against women’s rights gives us all the responsibility to speak out against these unacceptable violations of human dignity”. Also, MEP Adam Kósa, as co-chair of the Disability Intergroup of the European Parliament, stated that “we need to respect human difference” and emphasised that “people with disabilities have the right to decide, to make choices about their health and their bodies”. He also reminded that the EU has the obligation to implement the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD) which clearly denounces these practices.

EDF Vice President, Ana Pelaez, presented EDF and CERMI Women’s Foundation report on ‘ending forced sterilisation of women and girls with disabilities’. The report can be downloaded by clicking here.

Unfortunately, Jill Allen King, a blind woman who experienced forced sterilisation, was unable to attend, so instead, disability activist and Board member of the European Network on Independent Living (ENIL), Zara Todd, read Jill Allen King's testimony. **Jill Allen King was sterilised and misinformed of it because “the doctors at Southend hospital, England, did not think a blind person could or should have a child”. She also expressed her thoughts regarding forced sterilisation: “I would hope by now, in the United Kingdom, that attitudes have changed and I am shocked that this forced sterilisation takes place in other parts of the world”

Representatives from UN human rights mechanisms took active part at the hearing, including Catalina Devandas Aguilar, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities through a video message, and Louiza Chalal, Member of the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women.

Catalina Devandas Aguilar called for states to “abolish all forced sterilisation of women and girls with disabilities” and made a reminder that “forced sterilisation continues to be justified as a protection measure however, we have evidence that it only increases the risk to be subjected to sexual violence".

Louiza Chalal concluded that "forced sterilisation, by whatever process, is never admissible and will always constitute a breach to the right to be free from torture, the right to a private and family life, and a discrimination". She also stated that “women and girls with disabilities still face many barriers against the full enjoyment of their sexual and reproductive rights”.

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 Lobby, Fundamental Rights Agency, International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association, Inclusion Europe, Mental Health Europe and Autism-Europe.

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.”

Moreover, all EDF Women's Committee members, other women with disabilities from all over Europe, human rights stakeholders and representatives of EU gathered for this important event.

Watch the video of the hearing here

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