Australia: The Sterilisation of Women And Girls With Disabilities in Australia
Bella is 34 years old. Without her knowledge or consent, she became the victim of forced sterilisation at the age of 12 when her parents took her to hospital for what they told her was an operation to have her appendix removed. Nine years later, during a routine pelvic examination, Bella was told it was her uterus, not her appendix that had been removed.Thirteen years on from her discovery, Bella’s grief and anger are still raw.
The trust she had in her parents and hospital staff, she explains, was violated. “If they’d told the truth and asked me, I would have shouted ‘No!’” “My sterilisation makes me feel I’m less of a woman when I have sex because I’m not normal down there,” says Bella. “When I see other mums holding their babies, I look away and cry because I won’t ever know that happiness.”
It was stories like Bella’s that initiated, more than a decade ago, Women With Disabilities Australia’s campaign to address the issues of forced sterilisation and reproductive rights of women and girls with disabilities. This paper traces some of the key features of WWDA’s campaign over more than a decade to stop the forced and coerced sterilisation of disabled women and girls in Australia.