Other women are pressured to undergo a sterilisation procedure. To quote from Antelava's article, "On paper, sterilisations should be voluntary, but women don't really get a choice," says a senior doctor from a provincial hospital, who wished to remain unnamed. "It's very easy to manipulate a woman, especially if she is poor. You can say that her health will suffer if she has more children. You can tell her that sterilisation is best for her. Or you can just do the operation."
The reason for this sterilisation programme is, of course, population control, but apparently several medical professionals have claimed it is "also a bizarre short-cut to lowering maternal and infant mortality rates" and improving Uzbekistan's standing in international league tables.
Uzbekistan's human rights record is notoriously shocking and even the women who have dared to speak about what has happened to them are at great risk, let alone foreign journalists or human rights activists. So what can we do?
Antelava reports that Western dignitaries visiting the country recently have remained largely silent on the country's human rights record. She quotes Steve Swerdlow, Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch, as saying "Karimov has managed to get to the point in his relationship with the West when there are no consequences for his actions and human rights abuses. There is a deafening silence when it comes to human rights. Reports of forced sterilisation add urgency to breaking this silence."
Avaaz have launched a petition that you can sign urging US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to reintroduce pressure on Karimov. Ms Clinton is not known for her support of pro-life causes (to say the least) but in this case - ironically enough - her concern for women's rights, much as pro-lifers might sometimes disagree with the way in which she perceives these, brings her onto the pro-life side. You can sign the petition here.
|Family life is worth protecting and nurturing|
Swerdlow feels that Uzbekistan's attempt to manipulate its position in international league tables by underhand means is "typical of dictatorships that need to construct a narrative built on something other than the truth" - but how often do we do this ourselves when we allow our support for "women's rights" to ignore those of the unborn child? There is a balance here that needs to be found and I don't think that either Uzbekistan or the USA and Britain have it right.