In the month of November several women were killed after undergoing sterilisation procedures in the Chhattisgarh area of India. The doctor, who operated on eighty-three women in five hours, was arrested on charges of culpable homicide not amounting to murder. The doctor claimed that the surgeries had gone well, the problem lay with the medicines that were given to the women. These medicines, it appears, contained rat poison.
The Ministry of Health sent four doctors from the All India Institute of Medical Services (AIIMS) to the sterilisation camp in Chhattisgarh to help bring the situation under control. The doctors, on their return, also suggested that the deaths were caused due to the improper medication.
As a result of this, over thirty-five children have lost their mothers in this tragedy. The government has compensated the families with a sum of four lakh rupees and has made arrangements for the welfare of the children who have lost their mothers. However, what has happened cannot be compensated for by any means. This incident just brings to light underlying issues that exist in rural areas due to the lack of proper education and awareness.
These women were poor, uneducated and powerless. The prospect of earning some money and the pressure from their families pushed them into undergoing this procedure, which bore fatal results.
The entire mass sterilisation camp was held as part of a family planning programme in order to curb population growth. While the objective was fair and perhaps reasonable, the means of attaining it were not. An interview on NDTV revealed that people had been entered into ‘competitions’ where they were given the opportunity to win cars, and awarded six thousand rupees for agreeing to undergo this procedure. These are extremely attractive offers to the people who were most likely never going to own a car in their lifetime and were also not in the best position to make an informed decision of what they are entering into because of their lack of education and awareness. In addition, the interview showed men who were against the use of any form of contraception were urging their wives to undergo this procedure. Not surprisingly, none of these men were willing to undergo sterilisation themselves.
What has happened is a serious tragedy, and this screams negligence and ignorance. These women were poor, uneducated and powerless. The prospect of earning some money and the pressure from their families pushed them into undergoing this procedure, which bore fatal results. Furthermore, the patriarchal culture that is very much inherent in these areas meant that the women were made to undergo the procedure.
Of course the medical practitioners undertaking the procedure should be held fully responsible for this, but one cannot help but think whether these women would have agreed to this in the first place had they been more educated and informed. While one could argue that these women did consent to the surgery, does it even count when they had no idea of the risks it entailed? And did they indeed consent, or were they pressured into so doing by their husbands and in-laws?