Date: Wed, 17 Sep 97 10:16:16 CDT
From: rich%pencil@cmsa.Berkeley.EDU (Rich Winkel)
Subject: Forced Sterilization Exposed in Sweden, Belgium
/** headlines: 139.0 **/
** Topic: Forced Sterilization Exposed in Sweden, Belgium **
** Written 5:15 PM Sep 16, 1997 by mmason in cdp:headlines **
Edited/Distributed by HURINet—The Human Rights Information Network
## author : LauraHershey@compuserve.com
## date : 28.08.97
[This article has been excerpted.]
BRUSSELS, Belgium, 27 August 1997 (AP): A Belgian woman says no one listened when she complained about being sterilized against her will. A Swede describes how hard it was when colleagues would ask why she never had children.
Women who were deemed physically or mentally inferior and were sterilized are...speaking out, after revelations in Sweden drew attention to government programs that were common in many parts of Europe.
In Belgium, Ingrid van Butsel spent her life in orphanages and state housing. She married in 1985, but only after the regional government—without giving a reason—pressured her into a sterilization operation.
I could not believe my ears. I wanted children, but they said I was
unsuited to raise children. I had a choice: I could marry if I had
myself sterilized (or) they would send me to a psychiatric
hospital, van Butsel, 40, said in Wednesday's daily De Morgen.
Swedes have been forced to acknowledge an unflattering chapter in their past recently after a newspaper examined the 1935-76 involuntary sterilization program that robbed 60,000 Swedish men and women of their ability to have children.
Maria Nordin, from the Swedish town of Gaevle, was sterilized involuntarily 54 years ago at age 17. Decades later, it still hurts when she is asked why she never had children.
No matter which job I had, sooner or later someone asked me why I
didn't have children, she told the Stockholm newspaper
Expressen in an interview published Wednesday.
That was incredibly
difficult for me.
Belgium never had the same kind of sterilization program, but van Butsel's story shows how officials got away with the forced sterilization of a woman who was not mentally or physically disabled.
Van Butsel lived in government housing for young women who have no family, no money and few skills. The government did not tell her why it deemed her unfit to raise children and she, being poor and uneducated, was not able to challenge the decision.
After her sterilization, van Butsel became depressed, gained weight and wrote letters to the Belgian king and prime minister—to no avail.
Sterilization is not allowed without the permission of the person
involved, says University of Antwerp medicine professor Joke
Yet it happens. We should have a debate about that in
European nations have no statistics on the extent to which sterilizations are forced on people, mentally disabled or not.
In Britain, sterilization can only be carried out with informed
consent. Health Department spokesman Victor Shroot said court-ordered
Finland had a forced sterilization program like Sweden's from 1930 until 1955, but much smaller: 1,460 people were sterilized, compared to 60,000 in Sweden. Finland outlawed such sterilizations in 1970.
Before World War II and...after that
most doctors considered it as
a normal medical application, said University of Helsinki
researcher Panu Pulma.
Heide Schmidt, head of Austria's Liberal Party, said it is
necessary to eliminate
gray zones that make forced
The idea of sterilizing physically and mentally undesirables stems from Eugenics, the philosophy that a society should strive to keep its genetic makeup pure.
The theory was founded by Sir Francis Galton of Britain in the 1880s. It acquired popularity in the early half of the 20th century, when many nations, including the United States, sterilized people declared insane.
...political and racist motives were mixed in—with calamitous results, most notably in Nazi Germany.
Today, sterilization is most often associated with China and India, two nations that try to curb their fast-growing populations.
Beijing encourages women who already have one child to undergo sterilization. Human rights groups allege...China forces sterilization upon them under its one-child policy, a charge Beijing denies.
Tibetan separatists have also long claimed...China forced sterilization on Tibetan women, or had doctors surreptitiously sterilize Tibetan women who checked into hospitals for other medical procedures.
In India, sterilization is voluntary. An exception was from 1975-77, when the government imposed an emergency under which civil liberties were suspended and some poor people were forcibly sterilized.