A BBC investigation has uncovered a massive government-mandated program that forced doctors to sterilize women in Uzbekistan without their knowledge or consent. Tens of thousands of women have been affected, with no end in sight. But doctors aren't just sneaking into women's houses at night and stealthily making off with uteruses; instead, they're pushing pregnant women to give birth via Caesarean Section and tying the necessary tubes after extracting the baby. In some cases, they're giving secret hysterectomies — literally stealing wombs. This is one of those moments where you have to try to laugh so you don't cry, but then you end up crying anyway.
The BBC's Natalia Antelava spent months talking to women who were victimized by the government of Uzbekistan, and found a cruel callousness to how they were selected for sterilization. According to doctors, every month they're presented with a plan containing targets for how many women they're supposed to sterilize and how many women they're supposed to arm with contraceptives. And if you're a woman unlucky enough to walk through her doctors' office door on a day when her physician is scrambling to meet his or her monthly numbers, you could be picked.
Most of the procedures were carried out on women who were giving birth, since a non-voluntary tubal ligation is easier to perform on a woman who is already sedated, and women lucky enough to receive a procedure that isn't sloppy usually don't find out what happened to them until they try to conceive again. But in other cases, women experience bleeding, infections, and other complications that required a second hospital visit.
According to the Uzbek government, this program is designed to control population growth in a country where society looks favorably on a woman with a big family, and the government insists that the procedures are all voluntary. But according to the women who were victimized, they had no idea what was happening to them. In other cases, the women were coerced into agreeing to the procedure.
The Uzbek government has called the BBC's report "slanderous" and insisted that no women have been sterilized against their will. And if you can't trust a totalitarian government with a history of human rights violations over a group of whining ladies, then who can you trust?