An Australian doctor has described as “shocking and alarming" reports that Sri Lankan doctors have forced Tamil women to undergo surgery for the insertion of contraceptive implants.
Dr Sam Pari, a Sydney GP of Tamil origin, told New Matilda she was horrified to learn of the coercive birth control practice, which, according to an investigative report on the "Groundviews" news website, took place in the Kilinochchi region in northern Sri Lanka last month.
The report claims women from three villages were asked to go to the local district hospital to have their children weighed and vaccinated. They were told that medical experts from the major hospital at Kilinochchi would be attending them. Ambulances were sent to the villages to transport some of the women to their appointments.
When they got there, the visiting doctors from the Killinochchi hospital coerced them into having the long-term hormonal birth control implants surgically inserted under the skin of their arms.
The report quotes several of the women, who said when they objected and asked for time to think about the procedure they were told if they refused they may be barred from receiving treatment at the hospital in the future.
According to Groundviews, some who said they wanted to speak to their husbands were told by medical staff that if they didn’t agree to have the implants “their husbands would be brought to the hospital so that the procedure could also be performed on them.”
One unnamed woman is quoted as saying:
“When my turn came they spoke to me about the pros of not having any more children and told me that I am better off with only two children. I was of two minds and they sent me to the doctor.
“The doctor spoke to me nicely and told me rich and educated people in Sri Lanka and America use this method … How can I argue with such educated people? … They forced us to make a decision on the spot. I couldn’t speak to my husband or anyone that I knew … They cheated me.”
Pari, who is also a spokesperson for the Australian Tamil Congress, told New Matilda that: “The Sri Lankan government is engaging in many acts aimed at stunting the population growth of Tamils … At the same time it has been offering incentives for the military, the overwhelming majority of which is Sinhalese, to have more children.”
“According to the Geneva convention on genocide [article 2d], imposing measures intended to prevent births within a religious, ethnic or national group is considered genocide,” Pari added.
“Combined with the heavy militarisation and Sinhalisation programs in the country’s north and east, this type of practice will lead to the Tamil population growing smaller and smaller in the island. They will lose their political voting stronghold in their traditional homeland and eventually be eradicated, thus completing the Sri Lankan state’s genocidal plan.”
Pari pointed to recent reports in the Sri Lankan media from Wikileaks cables had revealed that forced abortions had also been performed on Tamil women under the guise of medical check-ups. The doctor involved was linked to a government-backed paramilitary group, according to a cable written in 2007 by US ambassador Robert Blake.
She said there were serious ethical questions that should be asked of the doctors involved in the coercive birth control procedures. “When medical professionals are involved in administering the implants through bluff and coercion serious questions arise about their ethical principles, as they have not respected the patients’ rights,” she said.
“In Australia, a medical practitioner has to obtain informed consent from a patient, or guardian, before administering any treatment or conducting any procedure. If this happened here, the doctor would be investigated, and, if found guilty, would be charged with malpractice, resulting in imprisonment, a fine or deregistration by the medical board.”