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Sterilization of girls with intellectual disabilities in Thailand

A number of women with intellectual disabilities are sterilized in their adolescence in Thailand. There is no legal basis for this. It seems many medical professionals, as a standard practice, advise parents of girls with intellectual disabilities to have their children sterilized and many parents follow this advice.

I have learnt about this very disturbing practice during my recent assignment as a Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) expert for Asia Pacific Development Center on Disability (APCD), based in Bangkok, Thailand from mid-November to mid โ€“ December 2007. I worked on the promotion of self-advocacy and family-advocacy in Cambodia, Lao and Vietnam.

This sterilization issue is particularly surprising since Thailand was a very positive and progressive participant of the negotiations of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The Convention was adopted December 2006 and Thailand was one of the first countries to sign the Convention on 30 March 2007. The article 23 of the Convention, on home and family life, stipulates that "persons with disabilities, including children, retain their fertility on an equal basis with others" and prohibits "discrimination against persons with disabilities in all matters relating to marriage, family, parenthood" and guarantees the right to marriage, reproductive and family planning education. Female sterilization is one of the common means of family planning in Thailand but if it is done widely for girls with intellectual disability based on their intellectual disability, it is considered as a violation of the Convention.

Many persons with intellectual disabilities around the world do get married, form a family and have children, with or without proper support. It is a real tragedy if their potential is denied because of their intellectual disability early in their adolescence. It is true women with intellectual disabilities often have been victims of sexual abuses. Semiโ€“automatic sterilization of girls with intellectual disabilities, however, is taken to be a serious human rights violation. It is encouraging to note there are Thai voices that consider this practice as a discrimination. Inclusion International is prepared to work with those who respect the reproductive rights of persons with intellectual disabilities in and outside of Thailand, which is a beautiful country

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Additional Information

Country: Thailand
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Source: Nagase Osamu, Council Member, Inclusion International
When: 11/2/2009

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