- SYDNEY, Dec 15 (Reuters) - More than 1,000 intellectually disabled girls
and young women have been illegally sterilised in Australia since 1991,
according to a human rights report released on Monday.
- The report released by the Human Rights
and Equal Opportunity Commission found that 1,045 sterilisation operations
had been officially registered since 1991, yet only 17 of these were court
- After a 1992 court ruling involving a
girl called Marion who was sterilised against her will, only a court can
authorise sterilisation operations for a child. The ruling allows hysterectomies
and tubal ligations only after less invasive treatment has failed.
- The only time a child can be sterilised
without court approval is when the procedure is a by-product of surgery
to treat a malfunction or disease.
- But the report warned that the real number
of sterilisation operations of intellectually disabled girls could be ``several
times'' higher because it only counted operations that qualified for financial
support under the Australian government's medical insurance system.
- It said there was evidence the child
sterilisation law was being ``deliberately flouted,'' with operations disguised,
due to the financial burden on families in seeking court approval.
- Disability Discrimination Commissioner
Elizabeth Hastings said the report provided strong evidence of ``disturbing
breaches of human rights.''
- ``This surgery is occurring far more
often than those rare cases where it is required for urgent medical reasons,''
Hastings told reporters on Monday.
- ``It seems clear that the practice of
sterilisation is being undertaken without effective accountability and
is happening unlawfully,'' Hastings said.
- ``I think it is a very serious problem.
All people have a universal right to integrity of the body and illegal
operations are a form of assault.''
- Hastings said sterilisation was wrongly
seen by some parents as a solution to menstruation problems faced by intellectually
disabled girls, as well as unwanted pregnancies and mood swings.
- ``It doesn't solve a lot of the family-based
problems relating with assisting the young woman with an intellectual disability
with her ordinary bodily functions,'' she said.
- ``People do it because of problems they
anticipate with menstruation and usually they don't know there are programmes
in place that they can use.''
- ``Some forms of sterilisation surgery
will in fact have quite long-term physical health effects on women, osteoporosis
and heart disease.'' ^REUTERS@
- 22:38 12-14-97