Everything is fine, no need to look here, we don’t secretly cut out our women’s wombs.
That’s the message from Uzbekistan’s state-run Uzdaily.uz, which has decried as the work of the “yellow press” a recent BBC report on how Uzbek doctors are secretly sterilizing tens of thousands of women.
Only women who wish to be sterilized are having the procedure, says Uzdaily. The BBC, however, reported that doctors are convincing women to give birth by Caesarean section in order to gain access to their internal reproductive organs: "Rules on Caesareans used to be very strict, but now I believe 80 percent of women give birth through C-sections. This makes it very easy to perform a sterilization and tie the fallopian tubes," a senior surgeon at a Tashkent hospital told the BBC. Uzdaily reiterated the government claim, which doctors ridicule, that only 6.8 percent of Uzbek women have C-sections.
The controversial sterilizations are not new, but the BBC report – which suggested officials are concerned with Uzbekistan’s ranking on international maternal mortality indices – appears to have gotten Tashkent’s attention. The Associated Press reported in 2010 on the “Uzbek women who have been surgically sterilized without their knowledge or consent in a program designed to prevent overpopulation from fueling unrest.”
The doctor “never asked for my approval, never ran any checks, just mutilated me as if I were a mute animal," one mother, who had part of her uterus removed during a C-section, told the AP, shortly after the death of her first, and last, baby.
That spring, women were increasingly turning to home births, fearing doctors would encourage them to have a C-section as a pretext to sterilize them, EurasiaNet.org reported.
But, in a Soviet-style denial that will fool few independent observers, Uzdaily says that thanks to a 2009 presidential decree, maternal health in Uzbekistan is actually improving. Moreover, “voluntary surgical contraception” is done only after consultation with a doctor and written consent from both the woman and her husband, Uzdaily insists.
“The implementation of activities under these programs has made it possible, over the course of three years, to increase the coverage and availability of various means of contraception among women in the country’s remotest regions,” says Uzdaily.
The BBC’s story has also gotten the attention of human rights activists around the world.
Avaaz.org – a global activist network that claims over 14 million members – has launched a petition entitled, “Hillary Tell [President Islam] Karimov: Stop Murdering Motherhood.”
“We call on you to publicly condemn forced sterilizations and other human rights abuses inside Uzbekistan,” says the petition. “We urge you to end the flood of cash and re-impose sanctions on the Uzbek regime until independent experts confirm these atrocities have ended. Finally, we call on you to ensure that military assistance to Uzbekistan is contingent on wide-ranging improvements in human rights.”