About Forced Sterilization

What is forced sterilization?

Forced, coercive, compulsory, or involuntary sterilization encompasses a variety of methods—used as a form of permanent birth control—that are applied without the full, free and informed consent of the recipient. This site utilizes the term forced sterilization, unless otherwise noted, interchangeably and/or inclusively with coercive, involuntary and compulsory sterilization. Typically these practices have been targeted toward women, however, this also site includes those policies and actions that affect men, transgender, and intersex persons.


How is it a human rights abuse?

International, regional and national human rights bodies have condemned forced sterilization policies and practices. The practice is often characterized as a form of violence against women; historically women are disproportionately affected by forced sterilization programs. Moreover, members of minority communities, persons of disability, and transgender persons are typical targets of forced sterilization.

Forced sterilization violates on a number of fundamental human rights, including but not limited to: right to health, right to information, right to privacy, right to effective remedies, right to decide on the number and spacing of children, right to found a family, right to sexual and reproductive health, right to means of contraception, right to freely choose or refuse family planning, right to choose and refuse sterilization, right to be free from inhuman and degrading treatment, right to equality and non-discrimination in all aspects of life, right to recognition as a person before the law, right to be free from discrimination.


Where and when has this occurred?

Forced sterilization, in some form or another, has existed since the concepts punishment, medicine, and servitude. However, the popular eugenics movement that emerged in the early 20th century created both the philosophical and political will that encouraged many countries to adopt forced sterilization policies. The majority of cases included here have roots in national eugenics programs.  An incomplete list of countries includes: Canada, China, Colombia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Iceland, India, Japan, Mexico, the Netherlands, Norway, Panama, Peru, Puerto Rico, Russia, Sweden, Switzerland, the USA and Uzbekistan.  More information about specific cases and conditions in each country is available through our Research Archive.

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Countries where forced sterilization is known to have occurred