UK Aid Pays for Forced Sterilizations in India

By Wendy Wright | May 2, 2012

Young women carried out after sterilization

Indian mass sterilization camp

Great Britain gave 166 million pounds ($268 million) to a government program in India that forcibly sterilizes poor women and men. The UK’s aid agency cited a need to address climate change by reducing population as a key reason to fund India’s abusive program, reports The Guardian.

Botched operations caused agony, bleeding, and deaths. In one region targeted by the UK government, a 35-year old wife of a poor laborer, pregnant with twins, bled to death.

Some women sterilized while pregnant suffered miscarriages. Some were bribed with less than $8 and a sari, others threatened with losing their ration cards. Some were told the operations were for general healthcare, and did not discover the true purpose until too late.

Clinics received bonuses for doing more than 30 operations a day. Non-governmental workers were paid for each person they convinced to be operated on. One surgeon working in a school building committed 53 operations in 2 hours with unqualified staff, no running water or means to clean the equipment.

Reports in 2006 and 2009 by the Indian government warned of problems with the program. Yet a 2010 report by the UK’s Department for International Development recommended continued support of the program, arguing that reducing the number of human beings would cut greenhouse gases, acknowledging there are “complex human rights and ethical issues” involved in forced population control.

Sterilization is the most common method of family planning used by India’s Reproductive and Child Health Programme Phase II, begun in 2005 with UK funding. Despite the revelations within the first year, the UK has placed no conditions on its funding.

While condemning forced sterilization, the UK development agency said, “Giving women access to family planning, no matter where they live or how poor they are, is a fundamental tenet” of the government’s international development policy.”

In July, the UK will host a family planning summit in London along with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The “event will aim to generate unprecedented political commitment and resources from developing countries, donors, the private sector, civil society and other partners to meet the family planning needs of women in the world’s poorest countries by 2020,” stated the UK’s Department for International Development.

Melinda Gates recently gave a speech claiming that contraception aid has nothing to do with population control or forced sterilization programs.

The Guardian’s article is based on court documents filed recently in India, reports around the country and UK’s aid agency.