UN Examines Australia’s Forced Sterilisation Of Disabled Women
The United Nations has raised concerns Australia is breaching the human rights of women with disabilities by allowing their forced sterilisation.
Australia’s human rights record is being assessed by the UN human rights council before the universal periodic review and the sterilisation of women with disabilities was raised in its session in Geneva.
The treatment of asylum seekers and Indigenous people was also raised as well as discrimination in Australia of people with disabilities.
Carolyn Frohmader, CEO of Women with Disabilities Australia, said Australia does not have any laws in place to prohibit the forced sterilisation of women with disabilities, or children, and it falls under the UN definition of torture.
WWDA believes no child should be sterilised at all as they cannot give proper consent because of their status as minors.
“It is very difficult to get accurate data on because it depends on which state and territory it’s in, some have different requirements, some go through guardianship boards, last year there was a sterilisation performed on young girl with disability in South Australia but [the state] refused to give me any information,” she said.
“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.”
WWDA is campaigning for sterilisation of women with disabilities to happen only when there is informed consent but Frohmader said even that is a grey area as there are reports of mothers taking their 18-year-old daughters to doctors and having them say they want to be sterilised.
She said most girls who are sterilised have an intellectual disability and cited the example of a 39-year-old woman who is part of WWDA who was sterilised when she was seven years old because she had a vision impairment.
The woman is “desperate for a child” and has explored adoption and surrogacy.
“We’ve got a long way to go, at the end of the day is 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 recognised as a form of torture, there is no excuse for torture so there is no argument [for the forced sterilisation of women with disabilities],” Frohmader said.
The Australian government made a commitment at the Geneva hearing to address the high incarceration rates of Indigenous people, an issue which affects a high number of people with disabilities.
First Peoples Disability Network (FPDN) CEO, Damian Griffis is in Geneva representing the Australian Cross Disability Alliance (ACDA).
“We welcome Australia’s commitment to address the indefinite detention of people with disability in the criminal justice system who are deemed unfit to plead,” he said.
“The over-incarceration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is a national shame. More and more data is now to coming to light that confirms the anecdotal evidence we receive relating to the high rates of incarceration of Aboriginal people with disability. The indefinite detention of Indigenous people with disability, without conviction, is a clear example of this.”
The UN is due to hand down its report into the human rights review on Thursday.