Rights review

UN scrutinizes Australia’s forced sterilization of disabled women

Women with Disabilities Australia (WWDA) has argued that Australia has no laws in place prohibiting the forced sterilization of women with disabilities or children, which falls under the UN definition of torture. Photo via Facebook

The UN human rights council is assessing Australia’s human rights track record for its universal periodic review, examining whether the country is breaching the human rights of women with disabilities by allowing their forced sterilization. Women with Disabilities Australia (WWDA) has argued that Australia has no laws in place prohibiting the forced sterilization of women with disabilities or children, which falls under the UN definition of torture. “We still allow it to occur, we haven’t got any legislation that prohibits it, it can depend on a family court or guardianship tribunals but trying to get access to information is impossible. The other thing we are very concerned about, there’s certainly indications people are taking their children out of the country to have it done,” said Carolyn Frohmader, CEO of the organization.

WWDA wants sterilization of women with disabilities only to be legal when there is informed consent, but even that can be a gray zone. “We’ve got a long way to go, at the end of the day it’s not about how it’s done, how it’s regulated, it’s about the fact it’s an egregious human rights violation and it is recognized as a form of torture,” Frohmader said. “There is no excuse for torture so there is no argument [for the forced sterilization of women with disabilities].”

The council also raised the issue of the treatment of asylum seekers and indigenous people, with the Australian government promising the hearing in Geneva to address the high incarceration rates of indigenous people – which affects many people with disabilities. The UN’s human rights review report is expected on Thursday.

Read the full story at The Guardian.

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