‘How will you manage?’ How disabled women are forced into surgical procedures

By Geetika Mantri: For Complete Post, click here…

Many women with disabilities are advised or coerced into surgical procedures under the pretext of convenience and physical safety, violating their bodily autonomy, often by those closest to them.

Nearly a decade ago, Smitha*, who lives with cerebral palsy, underwent a surgery to remove fibroids from her uterus. The doctors, at the time, asked if she wanted to get a hysterectomy — a procedure to surgically remove her uterus– done to help her ‘manage’ her period. Smitha, now in her forties, refused. Five years after her surgery, she had a health issue which led her to menstruate for a month at a stretch. 

“My family questioned my decision to not get a hysterectomy earlier when I had the chance”, Smitha told Behanbox. “They would not have suggested this to someone with a similar health condition who was not disabled.”

Like Smitha, many women with disabilities are advised, or indeed coerced into surgical procedures under the pretext of convenience and physical safety, violating their bodily autonomy and consent over their sexual and reproductive rights, often by those closest to them. 

Women with Disabilities India Network (WWDIN), a cross disability network run by women with disabilities, collected testimonies of women, many of them minors, who were forced to undergo hysterectomies or sterilisations in the  ‘Alternative Report’, a document submitted to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Person with Disabilities (UNCRPD) Committee in response to the initial report submitted by the government of India. The alternative report collated data from interviews with 441 women with disabilities across 23 Indian states between 2017 and 2018. 

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