Posted on | September 21, 2012 by Susan Yoshihara, Ph.D. |
One positive outcome of the latest gathering of states parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is that it highlighted the abuses of government population programs, namely, forced sterilization.
In 1996, Maria Mamerita Mestanza Chavez, a 33-year-old Peruvian mother of seven, was threatened with imprisonment if she did not comply with the government policy of undergoing sterilisation. After suffering post-operative complications for which she was refused treatment, Chavez died nine days later.
After years of legal proceedings in the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), in 2003 the Peruvian government finally acknowledged international legal responsibility for its actions.
Chavez’s story is not the only case in which national law has forced women to undergo involuntary sterilisation. Although many women’s and disability rights organisations and other human rights bodies have condemned coercive sterilisation, thousands of women and girls worldwide are still denied the right to make decisions about their own reproduction.
In my conversations with disailities advocates, I have heard raised the fear that the treaty may work the opposite way, too, and hinder a woman’s choice about reproduction. The treaty’s inclusion of ”reproductive health” in Article 25 along with the deemphasis on parent’s rights may empower the state to encourage abortion for mentally disabled girls.